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Your Car Is Spewing Microplastics That Blow Around the World

Wired – “When you drive, tiny bits of plastic fly off your tires and brakes. Now scientists have shown how all that road muck is blowing into “pristine” environments like the Arctic. “…Today in the journal Nature Communications, researchers model how microplastics from our cars are traveling from densely populated regions into the environment. These little automotive bits pour from the cities of Europe, Asia, and the Americas, and settle out in the Arctic, Greenland, and the world’s oceans. The researchers find that the mean lifetime for the smallest particles, which more easily get caught up in winds, is nearly a month. Their modeling calculates that 52,000 tons of the smallest particles end up in the sea each year, and 20,000 tons end up in remote snowy and icy regions. By combining data on tire and brake wear with existing methods of calculating the transportation of pollutants in the atmosphere, the scientists build on a growing body of evidence that the wind is dispersing an astonishing amount of microplastics, both near and far. “Small particles are lofting higher, of course. But they also weigh less than larger ones and can easily reach remote regions under favorable meteorological conditions,” says Nikolaos Evangeliou, senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research and lead author of the new paper. “Larger particles are usually deposited near the sources.”…

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