Warning as 212kg of plastic falls on major city causing 'unimaginable damage'

Aussie scientists are warning delegates to the global plastics treaty in Canada that they could be breathing and drinking in staggering amounts of plastic.

Television commercials, billboards at airports and building illuminations are warning of strange weather predictions across a major capital city. They advertise the "shocking" results of new research by Aussie scientists that over 212 kilograms of microplastics have been raining down on Ottawa.

The unusual weather forecast campaign has been prepared by Minderoo Foundation to coincide with negotiations for a United Nations global plastics treaty in Canada's capital, which start tomorrow. The advertisements also reveal visitors to the city are consuming microplastics every time they drink water — the average daily intake is close to 5500 microplastics and nanoplastics a day.

Because they’re so small, microplastics can hitch a ride into the sky as water evaporates and become part of cloud formations. They can also be carried by wind across continents, or be struck into the air by ocean movement. Unfortunately for everyone who breathes the toxic particles into their lungs, they often carry an array of chemicals on their surface including pesticides, or even heavy metals.

A building illumination in Ottawa that reads: Severe Weather Warning, it's raining plastic. Another building can be seen in the background.
Building illuminations have warned it's literally 'raining plastic' in Ottawa. Source: Supplied

Minderoo Foundation is a philanthropic organisation established by mining magnate and marine biologist Dr Andrew Forest. It created Ottawa’s Plastic Forecast by pairing laser direct infrared chemical imaging with weather analysis to estimate how many particles were falling across the capital in February and March.

The Foundation's Chief Scientist Dr Tony Worby said he hoped the project will result in widespread public support for a treaty that ends unsustainable plastic production. "As we gather in Ottawa this week for crucial treaty negotiations, these findings highlight the immediacy of the crisis—we are literally breathing, drinking, and living in a biosphere of plastic," Worby said.

You can watch the Ottawa Plastic Forecast advertisement at the bottom of this article.

🥤Simple ways humans ingest microplastics

  • Opening a plastic bag of food

  • Drinking from a plastic bottle

  • Breathing

  • Eating contaminated seafood or meat

  • Using a plastic cutting board or cutlery

Two images of the airport advertisements in Ottawa warning about plastics in the atmosphere and the water..
Airport advertisements warn plastic is in Ottawa's rain and drinking water. Source: Supplied

😨 Want to learn more about microplastics?

☔️ How can the world beat its plastic addiction?

The Foundation is calling for a reduction of virgin fossil fuel-based plastic production as well as the elimination of harmful chemicals in plastics, which it says will reduce waste and its impact on human health.

“Harmful chemicals leach from plastic during production, use and disposal; plastic particles break down into the environment, and this toxic cocktail ends up in our bodies, where it does unimaginable damage to our health," the Foundation’s Professor Sarah Dunlop added.

It's not just fish and land animals that are full of plastic. Particles are now commonly found in human tissue and they've even been detected in breast milk.

Sadly few places on Earth are likely free of the toxins, as they've been found on the bottom of the ocean and remote mountain peaks.

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