On the peaks of Mount Fuji, Japanese scientists have made a worrying discovery: even the clouds contain microplastics. These tiny fragments, carried by air and caught in water droplets, could have significant implications for the environment, and also for our climate.
Microplastics have become a global topic of discussion, but their presence in the clouds above Mount Fuji has brought the issue to a new level of urgency. These small fragments of plastic, often invisible to the naked eye, are everywhere: inside fish in the ocean depths, in Arctic sea ice, in the snows of the Pyrenees between France and Spain. I am in fruit what shall we eat, in the air that we breathe. In our Blood flow. Even in our heart.
The discovery on Mount Fuji
A group of Japanese researchers decided to investigate the presence of these particles in the elevated regions of the country. Climbing Mount Fuji and Mount Oyama, they collected water samples from the clouds of fog that shroud their peaks. Using advanced imaging techniques, they analyzed the samples to determine the physical and chemical properties of the particles present.
The results were surprising. The team identified as many as nine different types of polymers and one type of rubber in airborne microplastics. These particles ranged in size from 7,1 to 94,6 micrometers. Even more worrying was the discovery that each liter of cloud water contained between 6,7 and 13,9 pieces of plastic.
Microplastics in clouds: the implications for the climate
As mentioned, microplastics are not just an environmental problem. The presence of "hydrophilic" (water-loving) polymers suggests that these particles could play a significant role in the rapid formation of clouds and, consequently, climate systems. Hiroshi Okochi, lead author of the study (that I link to you here) and affiliated with Waseda University, underlined the urgency of addressing the problem: if left untreated, it could lead to irreversible environmental damage.
Microplastics, defined as plastic particles smaller than 5 millimeters, come from many sources. Industrial effluents, textiles, synthetic tires, personal care products and many other products release these particles into the environment.
A call to action
The presence of microplastics in clouds forces us to reflect on our responsibility towards the environment. It is yet another wake-up call, for now unheeded, which reminds us of the importance of protecting and preserving our planet for future generations.