EDEN IAS

MICROPLASTICS IN ANTARCTICA

UPSC CURRENT AFFAIRS | DISCOVERY OF MICROPLASTICS IN ANTARCTICA | 28TH JUNE | INDIAN EXPRESS

SYLLABUS SECTION: GS III (ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY)

WHY IN THE NEWS?

Researchers collected snow samples from 19 sites in the Ross Island region of Antarctica and found that all contained microplastics.

  • Researchers collected snow samples from 19 sites in the Ross Island region of Antarctica and found that all contained microplastics.
  • While microplastics have been found across the world, from the world’s deepest ocean floors to the peak of Mount Everest, researchers say that this is the first time that they have been found in freshly fallen snow in Antarctica

WHAT IS MICROPLASTIC?

  • Microplastics are tiny plastic debris that are smaller than 5 mm in length, tinier than even a grain of rice. There are two types of microplastics.
  • Primary microplastics are tiny particles that are purposely design as such for commercial use, like in cosmetics, nurdles-plastic pellets use in industrial manufacturing and in fibres from synthetic textiles like nylon.
  • Secondary microplastics are formed through the degradation of larger plastic items like bottles, fishing nets and plastic bags. This occurs through exposure to the environment, like radiation from the sun, wind and ocean waves.
  • How did they reach Antarctica? These particles, due to their light weight and low density, might have travelled through air from more than 6,000 km away. However, there is also a possibility that the human presence in Antarctica created a microplastic ‘footprint’.

WHY IS THIS DISCOVERY TROUBLING?

  • It shows that the spread of microplastics is so widespread, that even the remotest and least habitable places in the world are now infest by these particles.
  • Microplastics are not biodegradable and can be toxic for plants and animals.
  • The microplastics deposited in ice and snow can accelerate the melting of the cryosphere — regions where water is in solid form, like the planet’s North and South Poles. Dark-coloured microplastics are better at absorbing sunlight and retain more heat.

SOURCE: INDIAN EXPRESS

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