“There’s no place that’s safe from our influence and contamination of the Earth…Climate change is showing its ugly head now.” Jeff Derry, Executive Director for the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies.
Microplastics are ruining the environment, especially in the Centennial State. The Colorado Sun reports that U.S. Geological Survey researchers Richard Reynolds(who is retired), Jeff Deery, Harland Goldstein, and Raymond Kokaly have found microplastics in the snow throughout the Colorado mountains from dust on snow samples. Some of the locations surveyed included Loveland Pass, Rocky Mountain National Park, Wolf Creek, the San Juan Mountains, and other Upper Colorado River Basin sites. It’s clear that microplastics are found wherever humans inhabit, although it’s not quite certain how rampant the microplastic situation is. This follows a concerning peer-reviewed study done by Dutch researchers this year, which found microplastics inside seventeen of twenty-two volunteers.
Some of the microplastics found included truck tires from nearby highways, pieces of plastic bottles from a Utah landfill that found its way onto Loveland Pass, and Detritus from the Pacific garbage patch that reached the San Juan Mountains by El Nino. This means that they are getting into the wildlife, and likely into the drinking water of humans as well. It also creates bad news for skiers: the microplastics likely absorb sunshine and speed up snowmelt. This microplastic surge could have potentially led to the San Juan Mountain snowpack melting one month earlier than usual this year.
The solutions are tough to figure out at this point, as scientists have just discovered how severe the microplastic situation is. A World Health Organization study in 2019 found that “it is likely humans have ingested plastic particles for decades as a result of widespread contact with plastics in household objects including cutting boards, food packaging and direct contamination in air and food.” Water measurements to detect microplastics were introduced in California last year, but this project is still in its infancy.
The Center for Snow & Avalanche Studies said the following questions need to be answered before sufficient action can be taken:
“What are the sources for the MPs [Microplastics] in our Colorado Mountains? How much MP is present and do MP amounts vary from year-to-year and place to place? Some plastics absorb solar radiation; do MPs diminish snow-surface albedo to influence the onset and rate of snow melt? If so, how do such influences compare with those from other dust components? What are the effects of MPs on montane ecosystems, soils, and aquatic life? Humans?”
It looks like I’ll be having microplastics for dinner tonight. Image Credits: Loveland Ski Area, Drangelice But He Fighting In The Rithmeere Games, Center for Snow & Avalanche Studies, Vincent Ledvina