There are Microplastics in Antarctica’s Pure White Snow

As researchers continue to find disturbing evidence of plastics in the farthest corners of the earth, a recent expedition has found that even the water and snow in Antarctica have been contaminated with microplastics and chemicals.

The three-month research expedition was carried out by Greenpeace at the beginning of the year, during which the organization found at least one microplastic per liter of water when surface water was tested, while two of nine samples taken with manta trawl nets contained microplastics.

GP0STRI1TSandra Schoettner, marine biologist and oceans campaigner with Greenpeace Germany and crew deploying the so-called manta trawl – a net specifically designed for skimming small particles from the sea surface whilst being towed alongside the ship. Credit: Christian Åslund/Greenpeace

Detectable concentrations of the persistent chemicals per- and polyfluorinated alkylated substances, or PFASs, were also found in seven of nine snow samples that were tested.

GP0STROVFCampaigner Thilo Maack takes snow samples, for testing of environmental pollutants, on Greenwich Island in the Antarctic. Credit: Paul Hilton/Greenpeace

These chemicals are widely used in consumer products from nonstick cookware and food packaging to waterproof clothing, among many other products. Unfortunately, they’ve been linked to health problems in us, and to cause health and serious reproductive issues in animals.

Even more troubling is that these chemicals were found in freshly-fallen snow, which Greenpeace says suggests they came from the atmosphere.

GP0STRI1SSandra Schoettner and Josh Ingram from Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise doing snow sampling to investigate the presence of persistent organic pollutants like PFCs (per- and polyfluorinated chemicals) in the Antarctic environment. Credit: Christian Åslund/Greenpeace

“We may think of the Antarctic as a remote and pristine wilderness,” said Frida Bengtsson of Greenpeace’s Protect the Antarctic campaign, “but from pollution and climate change to industrial krill fishing, humanity’s footprint is clear. These results show that even the most remote habitats of the Antarctic are contaminated with microplastic waste and persistent hazardous chemicals.”

Greenpeace is now calling for urgent action to stem the tide of plastic making its way into the earth’s oceans, and for the creation of a protected area in Antarctica, which would make the waters there off limits to industrial fishing, protecting krill that Antarctic life relies on, in addition to providing a safe haven for numerous other species from whales and seals to multiple species of penguins.

GP0STRGQAOne of the largest Adélie penguin colonies in Antarctica is situated in Hope Bay on Trinity Peninsula, which is the northernmost part of the Antarctic Peninsula. Credit: Christian Åslund/Greenpeace

The EU has proposed creating the Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary, which would cover 1.8 million square miles, making it the largest protected area on earth, and while it’s garnered a lot of public support so far, a final decision isn’t expected until the next meeting of the Antarctic Ocean Commission (CCAMLR) in October 2018.

GP0STRHWJFog surrounding the mountains and Humpback whales breaching the surface in Hope Bay, Antarctica. Credit: Christian Åslund/Greenpeace

Hopefully it will become a reality that will protect wildlife who call Antarctica home. Unfortunately, microplastics and persistent chemicals weren’t the only troubling discoveries there that are putting wildlife at risk.

“We also saw all kinds of waste from the fishing industry down in the Antarctic,” Bengtsson added. “Buoys, nets and tarpaulins drifted in between icebergs, which was really sad to see. We took them out of the water, but it really made clear to me how we need to put vast parts of this area off-limits to human activity if we’re going to protect the Antarctic’s incredible wildlife.”

Photo credit: Christian Åslund/Greenpeace


Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Danuta W
Danuta W7 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Thomas M
Past Member 8 months ago


Ruth S
Ruth S8 months ago


Leo Custer
Leo C8 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

Winn A
Winn A8 months ago


Dave fleming
Past Member 8 months ago


Cathy B
Cathy B8 months ago

Noted with great sadness for creatures great and small. Thank you.

Michael Friedmann
Michael Friedmann8 months ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

Leo Custer
Leo C8 months ago

Thank you for posting!