In one of the first studies to find microplastic particles directly in precipitation, MSU's Bekah Anderson, a chemical engineering senior, has some interesting results. She collected samples this past year from Teton Pass, Big Sky Resort and other sites in Rocky Mountains. In a news release from Montana State University, Anderson said, "There's all sorts of stuff in there." She found plant pollen and dust, but also polyester fibers. "All the pieces I've found so far have been small fibers that seem to be from fabrics like fleece." She said many kinds of outdoor clothing are made of finely spun plastic fibers. Anderson passes her samples through a filter that collect any particles. Then she adds a dye which make the particles fluoresce. Using Raman spectroscopy, she can determine the types of plastic.

Christine Foreman, associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at MSU, said, "It's been exciting, but also saddening, to find so much microplastic in snow." The MSU team's preliminary results are significant, she said, because it suggests that synthetic fibers are throughout the water cycle. Microplastics have been found in streams, lakes and oceans. It is still being determined what effect they might have on ecosystems. You can read more at the MSU news site.