Microplastics in glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau: evidence for long-range transport of microplastics

Yulan Zhang, Tanguang Gao, Shichang Kang, Steve Allen, Xi Luo, Deonie Allen

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Microplastics are globally prevalent on a large scale in various marine and terrestrial environments, including Arctic snow and precipitation in protected areas of the United Sates. However, reports of microplastics from glaciers are rare, especially for the Tibetan Plateau (TP), which is widely known as the world's Third Pole and Asian Water Tower. Adjacent to human settlements in South Asia, East China, and Central Asia, the TP features regular cross-border air pollution (e.g., black carbon and mercury), which can affect its vulnerable and pristine environments. In previous studies, abundant microplastics have been reported from Tibetan rivers/lakes water and sediments, and surface soils. We detected microplastics in glacier surface snow on the TP, which were isolated from the impact of human activities, indicating that microplastics can be transported over long distances. This evidence is expected to be significant for understanding the atmospheric transport of microplastics to the TP, and provides a global perspective on the microplastic cycle.
Original languageEnglish
Article number143634
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date18 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • microplastics
  • glacier
  • atmospheric transport
  • remote area
  • Tibetan Plateau


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