A recent Greenpeace expedition has found that microplastics from consumer products and hazardous industrial chemical waste have already penetrated Antarctica, the "world's last wilderness."
With this recent discovery, it could be said that humans already polluted all corners of the Earth's oceans, from the north pole to the south pole.
Trashes Easily Visible
The team behind the expedition said that trashes were easily visible to them. There were discarded fishing buoys, nets, and even tarpaulins drifting between small icebergs. The team, thinking that these were the only type of garbage found in the supposedly pristine region, collected all items they found.
Sadly, the team discovered that the pollution was more than the visible trashes. Instead, ice, water, and even snow samples from the region revealed all forms of known human pollution that could have come from all over the world.
World's Last Wilderness
With its extremely cold climate and massive icebergs, people could easily assume Antarctica could protect itself from human pollution. Even experts presumed that with its distance from the world and the ocean currents surrounding the region, Antarctica could act like a buffer zone against contamination.
In fact, the Greenpeace team that conducted the expedition was originally out there to witness Antarctica's amazing wildlife. The expedition was part of the initiative to build the Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary.
The team was looking for an area to be assigned as off-limits to the people, where penguins, whales, and seabirds could live freely. Instead, the team found a concrete demonstration of how gravely the humans have polluted the environment.
"We may think of the Antarctic as a remote and pristine wilderness but from pollution and climate change to industrial krill fishing, humanity's footprint is clear," said Frida Bengtsson, from the Greenpeace Protect the Antarctic campaign.
The team, therefore, gathered samples from the region to determine the extent of the destruction that both microplastic and toxic chemical wastes have brought to Antarctica.
Contaminants In Antarctica
The expedition team collected samples from January to March. The snow samples gathered, even the freshly-fallen ones, contained traces of hazardous chemicals. This means that even the atmosphere in Antarctica is not spared from the pollution despite the region being located far away from industrial establishments.
Specifically, the analysis found that seven out of nine snow samples collected were contaminated with measurable concentrations of both per- and polyfluorinated alkylated substances. These harmful chemicals are found in industrial wastes and major consumer products.
Other waters and ice samples were contaminated with microplastic or microfiber. The Greenpeace team said that it is not the first time that traces of microplastics were found in Antarctica. What bothered them, however, was the "measurable amount" they found.
The next step, according to Greenpeace, is to call on companies and people to lessen the amount of their plastic usage and urge governments to launch initiatives that would eradicate single-use plastic.