Microplastic contamination in snow from val d’Aosta (italian western alps)

, Parolini Marco, Fresta Jacopo, Gibellino Cristina, Borgogno Franco, Antonioli Diego, De Felice Beatrice, Canuto Susanna, Albonico Carlo, Concedi Donatella, Romani Alessandra, Rosio Emanuela, Gianotti Valentina, Bongioanni Maurizio, Laus Michele, Ambrosini Roberto, Cavallo Roberto.

A growing body of evidence has highlighted that plastic contamination affects both anthropic and natural ecosystems, including remote areas. Recent studies have highlighted the presence of microplastics (MPs) in soils or sediments collected in mountain and glacier environments. However, the information concerning the transport routes of MPs to mountain environments is still limited. Aerial transport and snow scavenging have been suggested as the main route of MPs deposition in mountain areas, but data supporting this hypothesis are scant. The present study aimed at exploring the presence of MPs in snow collected in four locations on the path of the Tor des Géants® (Val d'Aosta, Italian Westers Alps) with different characteristics in terms of accessibility and anthropic presence. Snow was sampled close to the Deffeyes, the Miserin and the Cuney mountain huts, as well as at the col du Malatrà, in late summer 2019. Overall, 40 putative MPs were isolated from melted snow samples. Further µFTIR analyses confirmed that 45% of isolated items were MPs (length range 50 – 1,910 µm, average length 300 µm), 43% were cellulose fibres and 2% were wool fibres, while 10% were unidentifiable. The 39% of MPs were fibres, while the 61% were fragments. Polyethylene (39%) was the main polymer, followed by PET (17%), HDPE (17%), polyester (11%), LDPE (6%), polypropylene (5%) and polyurethane (5%). The concentration (MPs/L ± SE) of MPs in melted snow from Cuney (0.39 ± 0.39), Deffeyes (1.08 ± 0.01), Malatrà (1.45 ± 1.45) and Miserin (4.91 ± 2.48) did not differ significantly among locations, but values reflected the accessibility and the anthropic presence of sampling sites. Our results demonstrated that MPs can be deposited to the ground by snow, which acts as a scavenger of these contaminants by the atmosphere and plays a crucial role in contamination of remote areas.

View online