A team of researchers has identified for the first time microplastic contamination in a glacier in the Alps, that of Forni, located about 3,000 meters above sea level in the Italian National Park of Stelvio (north).
The research has been led by experts from the University of Milan and Milan-Bicocca and allowed to demonstrate "for the first time the contamination of microplastics in an alpine glacier," they said today in their report "A plastic glacier."
This contamination has been quantified in 75 plastic particles, between polyester, polyamide, polyethylene and polypropylene, for each kilogram of sediment, a "comparable" to the levels observed in the marine and coastal sediments of Europe.
Based on this data, researchers estimate that the language of the Forni glacier, one of the most important in Italy, "could contain between 131 and 162 million plastic particles."
Regarding its origin, they point out that it could be due to the remains of the material used by climbers and hikers who come to visit it or also by the particles dragged by the wind and that come to this mountainous area from other "difficult to locate" latitudes.
Experts say that the contamination of plastics in high mountain areas has not yet been studied, although it is known that this problem extends to many regions of the Earth and has even reached the depths of the Mariana Trench. .
"Thanks to this research, we have confirmed the presence of microplastics in glaciers, and future studies will investigate the biological aspects linked to this presence," said Professor Andrea Franzetti, from the University of Milano-Bicocca.
In particular, the objective will be to clarify the microbiological processes of plastic decomposition and the potential bioaccumulation of the particles in the food chain.
To avoid that the analyzed samples were contaminated by the presence of the researchers, they went up to the Alps wearing completely cotton garments and wooden footwear.