Microplastics Found in Layers of the Earth Untouched by Humans

By: Beth Moreton | Published: Apr 21, 2024

Scientists have long warned us to dispose of our waste properly, as it can take years to break down and can be harmful to the planet.

The discovery of microplastics in the earth’s layers, some dating back hundreds of years, only serves as a further warning to humans to dispose of their waste correctly.

Microplastics Exist in Everything

It can never be as simple as banning microplastics as they belong in everything.

An empty plastic water bottle left in some seaweed on a beach.

Source: Brian Yurasits/Unsplash

According to National Geographic, microplastics are in jewelry, water bottles, drinking water, and even our bodies. 

Humans Can Ingest Microplastics From the Air

For a long time, the main concern for humans ingesting microplastics has been from fish, as plastic is often dropped into the ocean.

Tiny pieces of microplastics on a beach. The plastic is made up of tiny white beads and colored wires.

Source: Sören Funk/Unsplash

However, National Geographic reports that humans are much more likely to ingest microplastics from the air than by consuming fish. 

Microplastics Were Found in Places of No Human Activity

Microplastics exist in everything and can even be found in places without recorded human activity.

Some plastic has been found in the Arctic Ocean. Pieces of string and plastic bags are floating among bits of ice in the water.

Source: SciShow/YouTube

A study posted in Nature Journal found that microplastics have been found in the Arctic and have been ingested by marine life. The plastic has also been found to have a direct link to climate change. 

The Microplastics Would Have Travelled There by Wind

In places without human activity, it can often be difficult to determine how the microplastics got there.

Plastic has washed up to the shore in the Arctic Ocean. There are piles of plastic bottles among the rubbish.

Source: Arctic Circle/YouTube

In a study posted in The Cryosphere, scientists determined that winds could transport the microplastics up to 6000km from where they were initially disposed of.

A Study Looked at Sediment and Microplastics

Scientists studied the effects of microplastics on the earth in a study published in the Science Advances Journal in February 2024. 

A plastic water bottle found among some rocks and sand.

Source: Markus Spiske/Unsplash

The study examined whether microplastics are one reason behind the delimitation of the Anthropocene Epoch. 


The Anthropocene Epoch Measures Human Activity

National Geographic states that the Anthropocene Epoch is an unofficial unit of geologic time that measures the impact of human activity on the earth. 

There is a pile of rubbish, most of which is in plastic bags. A dog is lying in the middle of the rubbish.

Source: Giuliano Belli/Wikimedia Commons

Its main purpose is to examine when human activity first started impacting the earth and the effect this has had on the climate and ecosystems. 


The Microplastics Date Back to the 1700s

During the study, the scientists looked at sediment in lakes in the northeastern part of Europe.

Broken up bits of plastic lying among some rocks.

Source: Daniel Malinkovich/Unsplash

This was where they discovered microplastics in the sediment that they believe to date back to as far as the 1700s.


Microplastics Aren’t Necessarily an Indication of the Anthropocene Epoch

Despite the microplastics being found in the earth’s sediment, this isn’t necessarily an indication of the Anthropocene Epoch.

Pieces of plastic and rope being dropped into the sea. Some black and yellow striped fish are swimming towards the plastic.

Source: Naja Bertolt Jensen/Unsplash

This means that the microplastics dating back to the 1700s aren’t necessarily an indicator of human activity impacting the earth from that moment in time. 


The Anthropocene Epoch Started in 1950

Scientists have long believed that the Anthropocene Epoch began in 1950. 

Large bits of plastic are floating in the sea. Some small black and yellow fish are swimming among the plastic.

Source: Naja Bertolt Jensen/Unsplash

According to Yahoo! News, this is because this is when scientists found human activity began having a big impact on the earth.


The Effects of Microplastics on Humans

As plastics are not meant to be in our bodies, this causes concern as to how harmful microplastics can be on our bodies.

A person on the beach holding a large white bag. They are wearing white globes and picking up rubbish from off the beach.

Source: OCG Saving The Ocean/Unsplash

However, a study posted in the Yonsei Medical Journal found that it is still unknown what, if any, the actual effects are on humans when ingesting microplastics. 


Getting Rid of Microplastics From Human Consumption

As microplastics are known to be harmful to the earth with their links to climate change, scientists are currently looking at ways to solve the issue of microplastics in the environment.

A group of people wearing gloves are standing on a beach. They are standing next to a large pile of rubbish, picking it up and putting it into large white bags.

Source: OCG Saving The Ocean/Unsplash

Futurism has reported that scientists are investigating methods such as planting birch trees in polluted soil and water filters, but the best option is yet to be decided.