Originally published in The Star in Bob Valen’s Weather Watcher column.

The short answer to the headline — yes, it does rain plastic. Take a look around, plastic is everywhere. It’s in our everyday lives; it is, in fact, omnipresent. It is in our rain, too. Plastic is an environmental challenge that is piling up globally. About 300 million tons of plastic is manufactured annually. Landfills are full of plastic and it will be there for a long time. Our oceans are increasingly becoming a type of catchment for plastics of all kinds — mini-continents.

Two recent studies have verified the presence of microplastic particles in rain water. A study published in Nature Geosciences in April addressed atmospheric microplastic deposition in a remote area of France. The study was conducted over a five-month period during both wet and dry conditions at a site in the French Pyrenees mountains. The researches found fibers and fragments of microplastics. Daily, counts of 249 fragments, 73 filaments and 44 fibers per square meter of rain water that was deposited in their catchment were found. They analyzed air-mass trajectory and found microplastics can be transported through our atmosphere up to 95 kilometers (59 miles).

Another recent study was conducted by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) using eight sites in the Colorado Front Range. These researchers found that more plastic was observed in samples from urban areas than from remote, mountainous sites. However, these researchers found at one remote site in Loch Vale, Rocky Mountain National Park, there was frequent observation of plastic fibers in washout samples. They state an air-mass back-trajectory analysis of the Rocky Mountain National Park site for 24 hours prior to sample collection at various altitudes, that plastic deposition was more positively identified for westerly storms than easterly storms.

So, plastic is in rainwater and that water, in part, becomes water for consumption for a good portion of humanity. Are the microplastic bits filtered out at some point along the rainwater-to-consumption chain? As the conclusion of the USGS study states, and I agree, “It is raining plastic. Better methods of sampling, identification, and quantification of plastic deposition along with assessment of potential ecological effects are needed.”

Cheers, here’s to a glass full of water and … ?

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Feature photo by Geetanjal Khanna on Unsplash.