Millions of tiny pieces of plastic are swirling around in Earth’s atmosphere and traveling across entire continents, according to a new study. This environmental problem is likely to get much worse and could have serious effects on human health, experts say.
Microplastics measure less than 0.2 inches (5 millimeters) long, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). And previous studies had shown that these microscopic particles can be found in the ocean, bottled water and even our poop, but until now, the atmospheric section of this “plastic cycle” had been poorly understood.
The new study revealed thousands of tons of microplastics already in the atmosphere, with roads as the biggest contributor. Computer modeling also revealed how particles get transported vast distances across the globe and showed that nowhere is safe from the pollution.