Greg Wetherbee found plastic elements while he was figuring out the source of airborne nitrogen air pollution in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The U.S. Geological Survey researcher had collected rain samples from eight sites alongside Colorado’s Front Range. The sites are a part of a national community for monitoring modifications within the chemical composition of rain. Six of the sites are from the city Boulder-to-Denver corridor. The remaining two are situated within the mountains at a more significant elevation.
The monitoring community was designed to trace nitrogen tendencies, and Wetherbee, a chemist, needed to determine the trail of airborne nitrogen that’s deposited in the national park. The appearance of metals or natural materials like coal particles might point to rural or city sources of nitrogen.
He separated the samples after which, in an inspired moment, positioned the filters underneath a microscope, to look intently at what else had gathered. It was slightly more than he initially thought.
“It was a serendipitous outcome,” Wetherbee informed Circle of Blue. “An opportune remark and discovering.”
In 90% of the samples, Wetherbee discovered a rainbow wheel of plastics, particularly fibers, and colored blue. Those might have been shed like crumbs from synthetic clothes. However, he additionally found different shapes, like beads and shards. The plastics were tiny, needing magnification of 20 to 40X to be seen. They usually weren’t dense enough to be weighed. More fibers were present in city sites; however, plastics were noticed in samples from a location at elevation 10,300ft in Rocky Mountain National Park.