Plastic Particles In Snow

November 3, 2021

The snow may be melting, but it is leaving pollution in the form of micro and nanoplastics behind, according to a McGill study published recently in Environmental Pollution. The pollution is largely due to the relatively soluble plastics found in antifreeze products (polyethylene glycols) that can be carried through the air and picked up by snow.

The researchers used a new technique they have developed to analyze snow samples collected in April 2019 in Montreal for micro- and nano-sized particles of various plastics. McGill’s technique is orders of magnitude more sensitive than any of the other current methods used to track plastic in the environment. It enables scientists to detect ultra-traceable amounts of many of the most common soluble and insoluble plastics in snow, water, rain, and even soil samples once separated, down to the level of one picogram (or one trillionth of a gram ). It is based on the use of nanostructured mass spectrometry and, unlike other techniques currently in use, the new technique is recyclable and based on sustainable practices.

“It’s important to be able to detect even traces of plastics in the environment,” says lead author Parisa Ariya, from McGill’s Departments of Chemistry and Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences. “Although these plastics may be harmless in themselves, they can pick up toxic organic matter and heavy metals from the environment, which can damage human cells and organs.”

First author Zi Wang, a PhD candidate at McGill, adds: “Our hope is that this new technique can be used by scientists from different fields to obtain key information on the amount of micro- and nanoplastics in urban environments in order to better address its impacts on the ecosystem and human health. “

Dr. Loony Davis5
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Born and raised in Brussels in an English family, I have always lived in a multicultural environment. After several work experiences in marketing and communication, I came to Smart Water Magazine, which I describe as the most exciting challenge of my career.
I am a person with great restlessness and curiosity to learn, discover what I do not know, as well as reinvent myself daily, someone who is curious about life and wants to know. I enjoy sharing knowledge.
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