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Plastic Rain

CAVAN IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES (MOUNTAINS); ALEX HYDE/NATUREPL.COM (DEBRIS)

POLLUTED PARKS: Rocky Mountain National Park is one of 11 protected wilderness areas where scientists discovered microplastics.

The world is so overrun with plastic pollution, it’s falling from the sky! Scientists found that samples of air and rainwater contained microplastics—plastic pieces less than 5 millimeters (0.2 inches) in diameter. Even more surprising: The samples were collected from wilderness areas—not cities, where you might expect to find loads of plastic waste.

Once tossed, plastics break down into smaller and smaller pieces. Wind picks up these tiny plastic bits, carrying them far from their original source. “The idea that our pollution can reach such remote locations is alarming,” says Janice Brahney, an environmental chemist at Utah State University who led this study. Her team calculated that at least 1,000 tons of microplastic fall onto national parks each year—that’s equivalent to 120 million plastic bottles!

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