A recent outdoor investigation led by Japanese scientists has made a ground-breaking discovery: microplastics, whose influence on ocean ecosystems has raised concerns, have been detected in clouds for the first time. This research team, led by Professor Hiroshi Okochi from Waseda University and his colleagues, has initiated further studies to delve into the implications. The presence of microplastics in clouds could potentially impact climate dynamics and pose health risks to humans.
The group collected 44 water samples from clouds found at the summits and bases of Mount Fuji, as well as the peak of Mount Tanzawa-Oyama, located west of Yokohama in Kanagawa prefecture. Upon analysis, the team identified a total of 70 microplastic particles, which could be categorized into nine distinct types.
These microplastic particles measured between 7.1 and 94.6 micrometres (millionths of a metre) in size, with average concentrations ranging from 6.7 to 13.9 particles per litre. It is believed that these microplastics were transported into the atmosphere through sea spray, which subsequently condensed into clouds.
While the exact consequences of these particles remain unclear, they may have an influence on climate patterns. Microplastics could potentially act as nucleation sites around which cloud droplets coalesce to form raindrops, potentially increasing both precipitation rates and total rainfall.
Furthermore, microplastics in rainwater derived from cloud microplastics could find their way into the human body through agricultural products and livestock, potentially having adverse effects on human health, caution the researchers.
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