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More than 1,000 tons of plastic is deposited in Western protected areas annually, study finds

More than 1,000 tons of plastic is deposited in Western protected areas annually, study finds
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More than 1,000 tons of plastic per year is being deposited from the atmosphere into protected national parks and wilderness areas in the Western U.S., a new study has found. 

Scientists found microplastics, very small pieces that can pollute the environment, at 11 national parks and wilderness areas, including the Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountains. The 1,000 tons of plastic is equivalent to more than 123 million plastic water bottles. 

The plastic is being deposited in both wet form, as plastic rain, and in dry form from the atmosphere, the scientists determined. 

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“Several studies have attempted to quantify the global plastic cycle but were unaware of the atmospheric limb,” said a statement from Janice Brahney, one of the study’s authors. 

“Our data show the plastic cycle is reminiscent of the global water cycle, having atmospheric, oceanic, and terrestrial lifetimes,” Brahney said. 

The statement said that the impact atmospheric plastic will have on organisms is unknown, but the sizes of the microplastics observed were within the range of those that can accumulate in lung tissue. 

Brahney said that the finding raises “widespread ecological and societal concerns.”