Microplastics have been detected in clouds hanging atop Mount Fuji and Mount Oyama, after being detected in the oceans’ depth and Antarctic ice.
Researchers found that plastic smaller than five millimetres was so concentrated in Mount Fuji that it is thought to be causing clouds to emit greenhouse gases.
The study concluded that this will lead to pollution travelling long distances, contaminating crops and water via “plastic rainfall”.
In fact, research has already found an uptick in microplastics in rain globally. The study’s authors say the main source of airborne plastics can be sea spray released when waves crash or ocean bubbles burst.
“If the issue of ‘plastic air pollution’ is not addressed proactively, climate change and ecological risks may become a reality, causing irreversible and serious environmental damage in the future,” the study’s lead author, Hiroshi Okochi, a professor at Waseda University, said in a statement.
Concerns about microplastics have been growing. Microplastics are created from debris that are released from larger pieces of plastic during degradation. It is also intentionally added to some products such as tires and plastic beads used in skincare products.
As much as 10 million tons of microplastics are estimated to end up in our oceans.
Microplastics’ toxicity is still being studied, but new research that exposed mice to microplastic points to health issues, like behavioural changes and links to cancer.