Science 3 min read

It's Raining Plastic Over The Rocky Mountains Says New Survey

Raising new questions about the extent of plastic pollution, a survey finds colorful microplastics in rainwater samples from the Rocky Mountains.

Image courtesy of the National Park Service

Image courtesy of the National Park Service

When it comes to scary statistics, only a few can come closer to plastic pollution.

The 7 billion people in the world consume around 320 million tons of plastic each year. Out of this figure, 8 million pieces of plastic or one garbage truck worth of plastic is being dumped into the ocean every minute.

We are laminating Earth, turning it into a plastic planet!

However, everything we throw will eventually come back at us. This is the case of plastic junks that are not only cluttering the oceans but are now also raining down on us.

Plastic Rain on the Rocky Mountains

A new survey conducted by the US Geological Survey (USGS) found plastic in rainwater samples from the Rocky Mountains.

The USGS scientists were analyzing rainfall samples for nitrogen pollution when they found what they didn’t expect — plastic.

The aptly-titled report, “It is raining plastic” was published by the researchers at the US Department of the Interior and US Geological Survey.

The team analyzed the rainwater samples collected during the winter and summer of 2017. The samples were from eight different sites in Denver and Boulder, Colorado.

The scientists were able to identify microplastic in over 90 percent of the samples.

They equipped a microscope with a digital camera to identify plastic particles in some sites as remote as one called CO98. The place is located 10,400 feet above sea level at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Sample particles were also gathered from urban locations. The report says:

“Plastic particles such as beads and shards were also observed with magnification. More plastic fibers were observed in samples from urban sites than from isolated, montane sites. However, frequent observation of plastic fibers in washout samples from the isolated Loch Vale site in Rocky Mountain National Park suggests that wet-deposition of plastic is ubiquitous and not just an urban condition.”

The plastic contaminating these locations was mostly in the form of strands, synthetic microfibres like those used in clothes. These microscopic pieces of plastic also come in a riot of colors, like blue, red, green, silver, and more.

The fact that microplastics are so small that they’re only visible with magnification makes them all the more dangerous to human health. It’s estimated that every year, an average person would consume anywhere between 74,000 to 121,000 plastic particles.

Yes, we ended up eating, drinking, and breathing plastic junk!

Maybe now that plastic pollution has reached our digestive systems and lungs, it will sound the alarm bells and push us to do something. A USGS researcher told The Guardian.

“I think the most important result that we can share with the American public is that there’s more plastic out there than meets the eye. It’s in the rain, it’s in the snow. It’s a part of our environment now.”

Read More: Microplastic Pollution Reaches the Pyrenees Mountains

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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