It’s snowing plastic in Siberia, and new research will find out how serious the problem is
Tomsk scientists are analysing vast quantities of microplastics in winter precipitation across a swathe of Russia.
At the beginning of March this year, the large-scale sampling of snow began in Siberia. Samples are collected in different regions of the Siberian federal region, from Gorny Altai (Biysk, Belokurikha) to the Arctic (Tazovsky district). Picture: Dmitry B Daemon_70Rus
The research is covering an area from Biysk, close to the Altai Mountains, to the Arctic. Rainwater is also being examined but there is special interest in snow.
Yulia Frank, a scientist at the Biological Institute of Tomsk State University, said: ‘People have been using plastic for over a century and a half. Synthetic polymers degrade poorly, and many countries have not yet come to collecting and disposing of this material.
‘So more and more products of its decomposition – microplastics – are accumulating in the environment.
‘A significant amount of microplastics is known to end up in freshwater and marine systems.
‘This is confirmed by our research.
‘The task of the new project is to assess the concentration of synthetic microparticles in solid and liquid precipitation. There have been no such studies in Russia yet.’
Tomsk scientists are analysing vast quantities of miscroplastics in winter precipitation across a swathe of Russia. Pictures: BI TSU, Dmitry B Daemon_70Rus
Scientists began collecting rainwater and snow samples in Tomsk and around the city in the fall of 2020. At the beginning of March this year, the large-scale sampling of snow began in Siberia. Samples are collected in different regions of the Siberian federal region, from Gorny Altai (Biysk, Belokurikha) to the Arctic (Tazovsky district).
Initial results of analysis of atmospheric precipitation collected near Tomsk shows they mainly contain [plastic] fibres.
‘Fragments of irregular shape and microspheres are found in smaller quantities. Obviously, this is due to the low weight of the particles, which contributes to their transport by air masses,’ the scientists say.
Soon scientists will conduct a laboratory analysis of the newly collected samples, assess the concentration of microplastics in solid atmospheric precipitation and find out whether its level is affected by the proximity of roads and settlements.
They hope that at the final stage of the project it will be possible to assess the presence of microparticles in the environment in the Siberian federal region and compare the level of environmental pollution with other regions.
Earlier the team of BI TSU analyzed the concentration of microplastics in the rivers of Siberia, as well as in the food tract of fish.