An Antarctic collembolan analysed by micro FTIR.
Scientists have found bits of polystyrene in the guts of tiny, soil-dwelling organisms in the Antarctic, raising concern that microplastics pollution has already "deeply" entered the world's most remote land-based food systems.
While the infiltration of microplastics throughout the oceans is well-known, researchers said their findings provided the first evidence of contamination in the Antarctic terrestrial food chain.
They warned this could also be a new stressor for fragile polar ecosystems already facing threats from climate change.
Scientists focused on collembolan Cryptopygus antarcticus -- small organisms commonly known as springtails that can jump in a similar way to fleas, although they are not classed as insects.
They are among the few organisms adapted to survive in the harsh Antarctic conditions and are "often the dominant species" in the few areas of the region not covered by ice, the study said. They mainly eat micro-algae and lichens.
Researchers, led by scientists from Italy's University of Siena, collected the creatures from a chunk of polystyrene foam covered in a green layer of micro-algae, moss and lichens on King George Island in the South Shetland Islands.
Human activity in the area including scientific research stations, airport and military facilities, and tourism have acted to make it "one of the most contaminated regions of Antarctica".
By examining the collembola using an imaging technique with infrared and comparing the images to fragments of the polystyrene, the researchers "unequivocally" detected traces of the plastic in their guts.
The authors said they believed the creatures ate the plastic fragments while grazing on their usual food.
Plastic pollution 'ubiquitous'
Elisa Bergami of the University of Siena said the study showed that plastic pollution is "ubiquitous" and had reached even remote polar regions.
Bergami said contamination on land had drawn less attention than ocean pollution.
She called for more research into the potential toxicity of exposure to plastic, which is associated with pathogens, contaminants and antibiotic-resistance.
Researchers also raised concerns about styrofoam, because its porous structure could encourage the formation of moss and other growth, thereby attracting organisms.
In separate research, two different groups of scientists from China and the US have reported discovering that manmade mercury pollution has reached the bottom of the deepest part of the ocean, the Marianas Trench in the Pacific.
The studies, reported at the Goldschmidt Geochemistry conference this week, found both manmade and natural methylmercury -- a toxic form of mercury -- in fish and crustaceans in the trench.
Mercury, which can become concentrated in animals towards the top of the marine food chain, is poisonous at high levels and can harm a developing foetus.
It can reach the oceans as a result of human activities like mining, as well as burning coal and petroleum.
Pollution also led to around 25,000 premature deaths in India's financial hub Mumbai in 2020, according to the report. "The need of the hour is to rapidly scale up renewable energy, bring an end to fossil fuel emissions and boost sustainable and accessible transport systems," the report said..
The study, published in the journal Hypertension, combines satellite data on air pollution and air currents with confirmed deaths related to COVID-19 and reveals that regions with permanently high levels of pollution have significantly more deaths than other regions.
Ella Kissi-Debrah, who lived close to one of London’s busiest thoroughfares, died in February 2013 after making almost 30 hospital visits over the previous three years.
A recent report ‘State of Global Air 2019’, by the US-based Health Effects Institute, revealed that over 12 lakh deaths in India were caused by air pollution. The burden of Type 2 diabetes contributed by exposure to fine particulate pollution is the highest in India, according to the report. Air pollution lowers insulin sensitivity, contributing to diabetes.
Dr. Pietie Loubser, Chief Clinical Officer at Mediclinic Middle East, says, “Quality of care for our patients is our top priority and it is for this reason that Mediclinic Middle East created a time-conscious Stroke programme.
Lakshmi Murgesan dives into the azure waters off India's southern coast to collect seaweed, which is being hailed by scientists as a miracle crop that absorbs more carbon dioxide than trees.
"We must stand together and speak up to save our planet. Not just for us, but for our future generations. We need urgent, urgent action now, and to work together as one,” Billie Elish said.