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High-flying microplastics could pose a threat to the ozone layer

Experiments suggest microplastic fragments with irregular shapes settle more slowly than spherical ones and may reach the stratosphere

By Alex Wilkins

15 September 2023

Tangled microplastic fibres from clothing, seen with an electron microscope in false colour


Microplastics may float higher in Earth’s atmosphere than previously thought, posing a risk that they might release chemicals that damage the ozone layer.

Small fragments of plastic can travel long distances on air currents, settling in remote locations, but there isn’t good data on just how far they can move. Most simulations assume that the microplastics are small spheres, but they can actually take a variety of irregular shapes, from kinked fibres to tangled complexes with …

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