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Microplastics discovered in 18th century Latvian lake sediments – predating modern plastic production


Apr 3, 2024

The issue of plastic pollution is becoming increasingly prevalent, with plastic debris being found washed up in various locations, including in Latvia. This discovery has implications for the definition of the new geological era, the Anthropocene.

Microplastics have been discovered in an increasing number of places in the 21st century, raising concerns about their impact on the environment and human health. These tiny plastic particles have been found in fish, our bodies, and even in remote locations like Antarctica.

The exact dangers of microplastics are not fully understood, nor is the extent of their presence in our bodies. The manufacturing of plastics accelerated after World War II, but microplastics have been found in deposits dating back to the 18th century, indicating that they can persist in environments untouched by modern humans.

A recent study in Latvia found microplastics in the sediments of three lakes: Seksu, Pinku, and Usmas. These findings challenge the idea that plastics can be used as a definitive marker for the Anthropocene epoch, as their presence in deposits from the 18th century suggests that other indicators, such as nuclear test isotopes, may be more accurate.

The decision on formally recognizing the Anthropocene epoch will be made by the International Union of Geological Sciences next autumn. This naming is significant for geologists, as geological eras are not named often. Currently, we are in the Holocene epoch, which began over 4,000 years ago.

By editor

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