March 5, 2024

Plastic Rainfall: The Hidden Microplastics Clouding Our Skies

Research study reveals that big quantities of microplastics are consumed or breathed in by animals and humans alike and have been detected in numerous organs such as lung, heart, blood, placenta, and feces. While a lot of studies on microplastics have focused on marine ecosystems, few have actually looked into their effect on cloud formation and climate change as “air-borne particles.”
In a brand-new research study led by Hiroshi Okochi, Professor at Waseda University, a group of Japanese researchers has actually explored the course of airborne microplastics (AMPs) as they distribute in the biosphere, adversely impacting human health, and the environment. Their research study was recently published in the journal Environmental Chemistry Letters with contributions from co-authors Yize Wang from Waseda University and Yasuhiro Niida from PerkinElmer Japan Co. Ltd. “Microplastics in the free troposphere are transferred and contribute to international pollution. These findings verify that AMPs play a key role in fast cloud formation, which may ultimately affect the total environment.

A study from Waseda University highlights the pervasive concern of airborne microplastics (AMPs), revealing their influence on cloud development and possible acceleration of global warming.
Scientists from Japan analyze the presence of microplastics in cloud water and their contribution to environment modification.
Plastic particles less than 5 mm in size are called “microplastics.” These small bits of plastic are typically found in industrial effluents, or type from the destruction of bulkier plastic waste. Research study shows that large amounts of microplastics are ingested or breathed in by animals and human beings alike and have actually been identified in numerous organs such as lung, heart, blood, placenta, and feces. Ten million lots of these plastic bits wind up in the ocean, launched with the ocean spray, and discover their way into the environment. This indicates that microplastics might have become a vital element of clouds, polluting almost whatever we drink and eat by means of “plastic rainfall.” While most research studies on microplastics have focused on aquatic communities, couple of have actually looked into their effect on cloud formation and environment modification as “air-borne particles.”
Airborne Microplastics: Impact on Health and Climate
In a new research study led by Hiroshi Okochi, Professor at Waseda University, a group of Japanese researchers has actually explored the path of airborne microplastics (AMPs) as they distribute in the biosphere, adversely affecting human health, and the climate. Their research study was just recently released in the journal Environmental Chemistry Letters with contributions from co-authors Yize Wang from Waseda University and Yasuhiro Niida from PerkinElmer Japan Co. Ltd. “Microplastics in the totally free troposphere are transferred and contribute to global contamination. If the problem of plastic air contamination is not attended to proactively, environment change and eco-friendly dangers might become a reality, causing irreparable and severe environmental damage in the future,” explains Okochi.

According to the findings of a brand-new study, AMPs were discovered in cloud water samples from mountain tops in Japan, which confirms that they play a key role in rapid cloud formation. Credit: Hiroshi Okochi from Waseda University
Research Methodology: Tracking Microplastics in the Atmosphere
To examine the role of these small plastic particles in the troposphere and the atmospheric limit layer, the team gathered cloud water from the summit of Mount (Mt.) Fuji, south-eastern foothills of Mt. Fuji (Tarobo), and the summit of Mt. Oyama– areas at elevations varying between 1300-3776 meters. Utilizing advanced imaging methods like attenuated total reflection imaging and micro-Fourier change infrared spectroscopy ( µFTIR ATR imaging), the researchers determined the existence of microplastics in the cloud water, and examined their chemical and physical residential or commercial properties.
Findings: Microplastics Role in Climate
They recognized nine various types of polymers and one kind of rubber in the AMPs detected. Especially, the majority of the polypropylene that was discovered in the samples was broken down and had carbonyl (C =O) and/or hydroxyl (OH) groups. The Feret sizes of these AMPs ranged between 7.1– 94.6 µm, the tiniest seen in the free troposphere. The existence of hydrophilic (water caring) polymers in the cloud water was plentiful, recommending that they were gotten rid of as “cloud condensation nuclei.” These findings verify that AMPs play an essential function in rapid cloud development, which may ultimately affect the total environment.
Conclusion: Implications for the Future
Accumulation of AMPs in the environment, especially in the polar regions, could lead to significant modifications in the ecological balance of the planet, causing extreme loss of biodiversity. Okochi concludes by stating “AMPs are broken down much faster in the upper environment than on the ground due to strong ultraviolet radiation, and this destruction launches greenhouse gases and contributes to international warming. As a result, the findings of this research study can be used to account for the effects of AMPs in future worldwide warming projections.”
Referral: “Airborne hydrophilic microplastics in cloud water at high altitudes and their role in cloud formation” by Yize Wang, Hiroshi Okochi, Yuto Tani, Hiroshi Hayami, Yukiya Minami, Naoya Katsumi, Masaki Takeuchi, Atsuyuki Sorimachi, Yusuke Fujii, Mizuo Kajino, Kouji Adachi, Yasuhiro Ishihara, Yoko Iwamoto and Yasuhiro Niida, 14 August 2023, Environmental Chemistry Letters.DOI: 10.1007/ s10311-023-01626-x.