London air heavily polluted by microplastics

A new study has found that London has higher levels of microplastics in the air than any other major city.

Researchers from King’s College London carried out a study on microplastics in the atmosphere in London. They found microplastics present in every sample taken in central London. What’s more, the level of microplastics was higher in London compared to other major cities examined so far, including Paris, Hamburg and Dongguan, China.

Ninety-two percent of the microplastics found were fibrous, indicating that they come from plastic textiles such as clothing, upholstery and carpets, according to a press release. Other sources include fragments from larger plastic products, films from thin plastic items such as disposable plastic bags, and foam from polystyrene items.

While previous studies have shown that microplastics can become airborne and travel as far as 95km by the wind, this study revealed that local sources are largely responsible for microplastics in central London.

The impact of microplastics on humans is still relatively unknown. However, if people are concerned about their exposure to microplastics, there are some steps they can take to mitigate it, such as avoiding products that microplastics have been found to contaminate, like bottled water, salt and some seafood products.

Image credit: Oregon State University via Flickr

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