Plastics and Air

Researchers at the Wiezmann Institute of Science (Israel) have determined that microplastics can become airborne. This allows this form of pollution to spread into unanticipated locations, and also become yet another problem for the human food chain and the simple act of breathing.

Microplastics are defined as particles of plastic that are less than 5 mm in diameter. As sea action breaks these particles down into smaller pieces, the resulting particles can become airborne. The plastics identified is sample of ocean air include polystyrene, polyethylene, and polypropylene. The length of time in the air probably depends on particle size, but could be hours or days.

The mechanics by which plastic particles in the ocean become airborne are described as follows:

“. . . microplastics enter the atmosphere through bubbles on the ocean surface or are picked up by winds, and are transported on air currents to remote parts of the ocean.”

Science Daily (1)

Microplastics are already a problem in many ocean areas, and particularly in fishing areas, where sea creatures can ingest the particles. They present a problem to larger sea animals and to the human food supply.


  1. Miri Trainic, J. Michel Flores, Iddo Pinkas, Maria Luiza Pedrotti, Fabien Lombard, Guillaume Bourdin, Gabriel Gorsky, Emmanuel Boss, Yinon Rudich, Assaf Vardi, Ilan Koren. Airborne microplastic particles detected in the remote marine atmosphere. Communications Earth & Environment, 2020; 1 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s43247-020-00061-y
  2. Weizmann Institute of Science. “Plastic is blowing in the wind.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 December 2020.


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