It’s an itty-bitty problem, except it so massively is not.
Microplastics, tiny particles accumulating at alarming rates in oceans and large lakes worldwide, were found in nearly every sample of water taken during the first study of them in waters south and southwest of Svalbard.
The particles were found both just below the surface (16cm deep) and in the subsurface (six meters deep), although they were far more prevalent in deeper waters. Ninety-five percent of the microplastics were fibers apparently broken-down from larger plastic items, most of which likely coming from vessels in the area and debris drifting long distances in the ocean.
“Furthermore, as commercial activity increases in response to sea ice decline and a growing economic demand, the threat of marine pollution will also rise,” the study published in the open-access journal Nature Scientific Reports notes.
Microplastics, often are so small they’re difficult to see without a microscope, are considered a threat because they’re easily ingested unknowingly by marine species, resulting in trigger events up the food chain. A recent study of northern fulmars in the Arctic found 87.5 percent of them had microplastics in their stomachs, resulting in problems ranging from a reduced ability to feed to death.