Diplomats from 175 countries are gathering in Paris for plastic treaty talks, but they may also experience a “plastic fall” during their stay, As seen on the first-ever plastic pollution weather forecast. Scientists predict that between 40 and 48kg of microplastic particles will fall from the sky over Paris each day. Heavy rain could increase this tenfold. The impact of plastic on the environment and human health has become a growing concern in recent years. Plastic debris is estimated to kill more than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals each year. Microscopic plastic particles have been found in human blood, breast milk and placentas.
As seen on a recent report by Science Alert, diplomats from 175 countries are gathering in Paris to discuss the issue of plastic pollution. However, they may need to pack an umbrella for more than just the chance of rain. The first-ever plastics pollution weather forecast predicts that billions of microplastic particles will fall from the sky during the five-day talks.
The forecast indicates that Paris will receive around 40 to 48 kilograms (88 to 106 pounds) of free-floating plastic bits every 24 hours. If there is heavy rain, the “plastic fall” could increase up to tenfold. The scientists involved in the research have warned that this should sharpen the focus of negotiators.
Marcus Gover, head of plastics research at the Minderoo Foundation in Perth, Australia, said, “Plastic particles break down into the environment, and this toxic cocktail ends up in our bodies, where it does unimaginable damage to our health.” The impact of plastics on the environment and human wellbeing has been a growing concern in recent years, with research documenting its omnipresence and persistence.
Microplastics, which are less than 5 millimeters (0.2 inches) in diameter and come in multi-colors, have been found in ice near the North Pole and inside fish navigating the oceans’ deepest, darkest recesses. Plastic debris is estimated to kill more than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals each year, and filter-feeding blue whales consume up to 10 million pieces of microplastic every day.
The equivalent of a garbage truck’s worth of plastic refuse is dumped into the ocean every minute, leading to the detection of microscopic bits of plastic in blood, breast milk, and placentas. Animal tests have linked chemicals in microplastics to increased risks of cancer, reproductive problems, and DNA mutations, but data on human impact is still lacking.
“In our bodies, the plastics we need to be most worried about are probably those between 10 nanometers and 1 micrometer,” said pediatrician Christos Symeonides, a researcher at Murdoch Children’s Research Hospital and the Minderoo Foundation. “They’re the ones most likely to get through our biological membranes into tissues, including the blood-brain barrier,” he told AFP.
The forecast for Paris next week only covers significantly larger particles as smaller particles are difficult to measure. However, it is a stark reminder of the growing problem of plastic pollution and the urgent need for action. As Gover warned, “We’re just now pulling our heads out of the sand when it comes to the health hazards of microplastics.”