Atmospheric transport and deposition of microplastics in a remote mountain catchment

Allen, Steve and Allen, Deonie and Phoenix, Vernon R. and Le Roux, Gaël and Durántez Jiménez, Pilar and Simonneau, Anaëlle and Binet, Stéphane and Galop, Didier (2019) Atmospheric transport and deposition of microplastics in a remote mountain catchment. Nature Geoscience, 12 (5). pp. 339-344. ISSN 1752-0894

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    Abstract

    Plastic litter is an ever-increasing global issue and one of this generation’s key environmental challenges. Microplastics have reached oceans via river transport on a global scale. With the exception of two megacities, Paris (France) and Dongguan (China), there is a lack of information on atmospheric microplastic deposition or transport. Here we present the observations of atmospheric microplastic deposition in a remote, pristine mountain catchment (French Pyrenees). We analysed samples, taken over five months, that represent atmospheric wet and dry deposition and identified fibres up to ~750 µm long and fragments ≤300 µm as microplastics. We document relative daily counts of 249 fragments, 73 films and 44 fibres per square metre that deposited on the catchment. An air mass trajectory analysis shows microplastic transport through the atmosphere over a distance of up to 95 km. We suggest that microplastics can reach and affect remote, sparsely inhabited areas through atmospheric transport.