Paris, 17 January 2016 – For the first time ever, scientists have measured the atmospheric fallout of microfibers. In Paris, they counted the quantity of atmospheric microfiber fallout daily at two locations (inside the city of Paris itself and in a suburb) for a year long. The fibers, which include plastic pollution from known and unknown sources, land on the ground or are washed towards the sea.
Every day, 2 to 355 microfibers were counted per square meter. The amount in the city was twice as high as in the suburb. Half of the fibers consisted of cotton or wool, 21% natural polymers, 17% was completely plastic and 12% was plastic mixed with other materials. Fewer microfibers were found in dry weather than in rainy weather conditions. The researchers estimate tentatively that between 3 and 10 tons of synthetic fibers fall on the ground every year in Paris and its suburbs, which covers an area of 2500 square kilometers.
Their study was published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin and is the very first study of atmospheric microfiber pollution. The researchers conclude that fallout is a potential source of pollution by microplastics. Most of the fibers are presumably from textiles, considering their properties. Microplastics in the air can be blown by the wind towards the sea or can land anywhere. More research is necessary to understand the mechanisms and effects of atmospheric microplastics.