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Climbing Everest from the comfort of your home
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- Even the supposedly pure snow on Everest contains the tiny particles of plastic pollution known as microplastic.
- Microplastics are common in the ocean, but are not as carefully studied on land, especially remote mountaintops.
- “These are the highest microplastics discovered so far.”
Microplastic pollution is everywhere. It’s in the ocean. It’s in our food. And now it’s on Mount Everest.
Already known as the “world’s highest junkyard” for the trash left behind by tourists, even the supposedly pure snow on Everest contains the tiny particles of plastic pollution known as microplastic, a new study reports.
“It really surprised me to find microplastics in every single snow sample I analyzed,” said study lead author Imogen Napper, a National Geographic explorer and marine scientist from the University of Plymouth in the U.K. “Mount Everest is somewhere I have always considered remote and pristine.
“To know we are polluting near the top of the tallest mountain is a real eye-opener,” she said in a statement.
The findings were published Friday in the journal One Earth, and were based on snow samples collected by a 2019 National Geographic expedition.
Microplastics – tiny particles of plastic that come from the slow breakdown of larger trash – pose an ecological threat because they are easily consumed by animals and are so small that they are difficult to clean up.
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They are common in the ocean, but are not as carefully studied on land, especially remote mountaintops such as Everest, the highest peak in the world.
The majority of microplastics detected on Everest were fibrous, according to Napper. She suspects that these microplastics came from performance clothing and equipment used by climbers and trekkers.
However, she said the microplastics may also have been transported from lower altitudes by the extreme winds that regularly impact the mountain’s higher slopes.
Other recent discoveries of microplastic pollution in remote parts of the Swiss Alps and French Pyrenees indicate the particles can also be carried by the wind from further afield, according to the Guardian.
“These are the highest microplastics discovered so far,” said Napper. “It means that microplastics have been discovered from the depths of the ocean all the way to the highest mountain on Earth.”
“With microplastics so ubiquitous in our environment, it’s time to focus on informing appropriate environmental solutions,” she said. “We need to protect and care for our planet.”