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Plastic contamination in Antarctica

Plastic waste and toxic chemicals found in remote parts of wildernesses Antarctica. This is an evidence that pollution is spreading to the ends of the Earth, environmental group Greenpeace said on Thursday.

Tiny bits of plastic from the breakdown of everything from shopping bags to car tires – were detected in nine of 17 water samples collected off the Antarctic peninsula by a Greenpeace vessel in early 2018.

Researchers spent three months taking water and snow samples from remote areas of the continent earlier this year. These have now been analysed and researchers have confirmed the majority contained “persistent hazardous chemicals” or microplastics.

“We may think of the Antarctic as a remote and pristine wilderness,” Frida Bengtsson of Greenpeace’s Protect the Antarctic campaign said in a statement about the findings.

The findings come amid growing concern about the extent of the plastic pollution crisis which scientists have warned risks “permanent contamination” of the planet.

The United Nations’ environment agency says plastic pollution has been detected from the Arctic to Antarctica and in remote places including the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans in the Pacific.

Earlier this week, the UN warned it is one of the world’s biggest environmental threats and said although 60 countries were taking urgent action more needed to be done.

Seven of the eight sea-surface water samples tested contained microplastics such as microfibres. Seven of the nine snow samples tested contained detectable concentrations of the persistent hazardous chemicals.

Researchers said the chemicals are widely used in many industrial processes and consumer products and have been linked to reproductive and developmental issues in wildlife. They said the snow samples gathered included freshly fallen snow, suggesting the hazardous chemicals had come from contaminated rain or snowfall.

Prof Alex Rogers, a specialist in sustainable oceans at the Oxford Martin school, Oxford University, said the discovery of plastics and chemicals in Antarctica confirmed that man made pollutants were now affecting ecosystems in every corner of the world.

>Juthy Saha

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