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'Punch in the gut': Scientists shocked after finding micro plastics in remote Arctic ice

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A team of scientists has made a chilling discovery after finding micro plastic material in some of the remotest waters on earth.

Ice samples collected from a remote section of the Arctic has researchers stressing the threat of pollution to marine life, after the scientists discovered the global scourge of pollution extends to some of the most pristine and remote areas of the world.

Micro-plastic pieces were uncovered by teams during an 18-day ice breaking expedition through the Northwest Passage linking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

The team discovered the microplastic material trapped in ice taken from Lancaster Sound.
The team discovered the microplastic material trapped in ice taken from Lancaster Sound.
Reuters

University of Rhode Island graduate student researcher Jacob Strock told Reuters the finding was both shocking and disheartening.

"We had spent weeks looking out at what looks so much like pristine white sea ice floating out on the ocean," he said,

"When we look at it up close and we see that it’s all very, very visibly contaminated when you look at it with the right tools — it felt a little bit like a punch in the gut."

Visible plastic beads and filaments could be seen in various ice samples.
Visible plastic beads and filaments could be seen in various ice samples.
Reuters

Fellow researcher Alessandro D'Angelo said the significance of the findings cannot be under-estimated.

"We have been able to sample ice cores from multi-year ice from first year ice here in the Canadian Arctic archipelago. And I think this is the first time that we can show people the presence of microplastic in this area," he said.

Comparisons are already being made with the plastic waste discovered in the Pacific Ocean’s Marianas Trench – one of the deepest places on the planet.

The United Nations estimates 100 million tonnes of plastic have already been dumped in the oceans to date.

Lead scientist, Dr Melanie Bergmann, said she expected to find some contamination but not nearly as much as this.

"I am here to show pure and clean snow and dogs and the Arctic nature and that's what I hope to do for the rest of my life and if it continues this way I will not be able to...when I hear that my heart is crying and I feel really, really terrible," she said.

"So it's not good news but we must not give up. We must start to fight against this. What can we do.....it's not surprising and it makes you really really sad."

The US-led team of researchers will now test the samples to better understand how plastics are damaging the marine ecosystem and killing off animals from the smallest of fish to ocean leviathans such as whales.

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