German and Swiss scientists have published a study suggesting that microplastic is being blown vast distances through the air and dumped when it snows, underscoring the threat the growing form of pollution poses to marine life in even the remotest waters on the planet.
The team, from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), analyzed snow samples in Germany, the Swiss Alps and on the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard to confirm that the snow in all places contained high concentrations of plastic fragments, known as microplastic.
“It’s readily apparent that the majority of the microplastic in the snow comes from the air,” lead researcher Melanie Bergmann said in a press release.
The highest concentration in samples was collected in a rural area in Germany’s southern province of Bavaria, totaling to 154,000 particles per liter. The snow in the Arctic contained up to 14,400 particles per liter in comparison.
Researchers found particles of nitrile rubber, acrylates and paints containing plastics in their snow samples.
The study, published on Wednesday (August 14), is reinforced by research conducted by a U.S.-led team of scientists in the Northwest Passage. The team found the material trapped in ice taken from Lancaster Sound, an isolated stretch of water in the Canadian Arctic, which they had assumed might be relatively sheltered from drifting plastic pollution.
Eighteen ice cores of up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) long were drawn from four locations, containing visible plastic beads and filaments of various shapes and sizes.
The plastic fragments serve to highlight how the waste problem has reached epidemic proportions.
The United Nations estimates that 100 million tonnes of plastic have been dumped in the oceans to date. (REUTERS)
A residential area in the town of Verl was sealed off on Tuesday (June 23) and its residents put into compulsory quarantine after a coronavirus outbreak at a meatpacking plant nearby.
As a fence was set up surrounding the area, some residents were tested by medical staff outside their buildings while others watched from their windows and were handed toys and wet wipes by staff on the other side of the fence.
Verl mayor Michael Esken said it was the only solution he could come up with given that many plant employees live side by side with neighbours who work elsewhere, increasing the risk of contagion for the whole community.
Earlier, the premier of the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia Armin Laschet said he was putting the entire Guetersloh district, where Verl is located, back into lockdown until June 30.
Guetersloh, with about 360,000 residents, is the first area in Germany to reintroduce a lockdown after the authorities began gradually lifting restrictive measures at the end of April.
Also on Tuesday, the head of the Robert Koch Institute for public health, Lothar Wieler, said local outbreaks had been a major factor behind a spike in the last few days in the coronavirus reproduction rate, currently estimated at 2.76.
A reproduction rate, or ‘R’, of 2.76 means that 100 people who have contracted the virus infect, on average, 276 others. (Reuters)
Authorities in Germany’s Goettingen have called on police to enforce quarantine measures following a rise in local coronavirus infections, which has caused the country’s virus reproduction rate to spike.
Tense situations in mass quarantine situations along with rising summer temperatures have seen tempers spike with police in Goettingen facing sometimes violent opposition to coronavirus measures.
A riot broke out at a block of flats on Saturday where around 700 people had been placed into quarantine.
Around 200 people tried to get out, but 500 people complied with quarantine rules.
In the ensuing fracas, eight police officers were injured after residents started to attack law enforcement officials.
“Recently the mood towards the measures and the law enforcers worsened as a result of a ring leader. A group started spreading resentment. Insults were made, there were attempted assaults and after the mentioned ring leader was taken into custody on June 19, things calmed down. Yesterday afternoon, however, things escalated again,” said Goettingen Chief of Police, Uwe Luehrig.
“The police, and I was able to see this with my own eyes on video, had bottles, stones, metal bars, planks of wood, household objects and fireworks thrown at them. This is what led to the aforementioned injuries. During the police deployment the police were forced to use measures like mild physical force but a lot of pepper spray was also used,” Luehrig said.
Low income residents of the housing estate, who are also not able to work, have complained of a lack of supplies with one man saying food brought to them was past its sell-by date.
Another resident complained of pain from the after-effects of the pepper spray.
City authorities have said they are fully funding translation and medical assistance and the delivery of care packages but admitted that things were still not running smoothly.
Germany’s reproduction rate of novel coronavirus infections jumped to 1.79, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for public health said on Saturday, far above the level needed to contain it over the longer term.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 687 to 189,822, data from the RKI showed on Sunday. (Reuters)
President Donald Trump said on Monday (June 15) the United States would cut the number of U.S. troops deployed in Germany to 25,000, a reduction of about 9,500, in a move likely to upset both his fellow Republicans in Congress and NATO allies.
In comments to reporters, Trump accused Germany of being “delinquent” in its payments to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and vowed to stick with the plan unless Berlin changed course.
“So we’re protecting Germany and they’re delinquent. That doesn’t make sense. So I said, we’re going to bring down the count to 25,000 soldiers,” Trump said during a meeting with cabinet members.
Also during the meeting, Trump said he will sign an executive order on police reform and hold a news conference on Tuesday, after several weeks of nationwide protests sparked by the death of African-American George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.
Trump said the shooting by police of a black man in Atlanta was a terrible situation and very disturbing.
An Atlanta police officer was fired and the police chief resigned after the killing of Rayshard Brooks on Friday night.
No details on Trump’s executive order on police reform have been released. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are working on separate proposals on the issue. (Reuters)
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