Dr Janice Brahney

Our natural resources, our natural parks and state parks are seen as treasures.  In public polling conducted, time and again, show concern for these areas by most Utahns as far as protecting them. Research was done by Utah State University and the title of an article “Plastic Rain” highlighted environmental concerns when it comes to distribution of plastics into pristine areas.

On KVNU’s For the People program last week, Dr  Janice Brahney, College of Natural Resources Watershed Sciences Assistant Professor talked about how she became involved in this type of research.

“I’m really interested in what is moving through our atmosphere and what is being deposited in remote, pristine environments and the composition of those particulates,” she explained.

So she set up a pilot study to try and understand how dust composition varied in space and time.

“And so I started looking at the dust under the microscope, and that’s when I saw really brightly colored pieces of plastic and I was just completely surprised.  I hadn’t heard anything about plastic deposition before and I just started to redirect all my efforts and focus all my time in trying to understand how much plastic was in the atmosphere and where it was coming from.”

Dr Brahney said the oceans are a big source of plastics that get broken down and carried into the upper atmosphere.  Her studies indicated that a lot of plastic is being deposited in pristine areas.  The lower estimate was a thousand tons per year into protected lands in the western U.S.

The upper estimate has it at 4-thousand tons per year.  In helping to mitigate the problem, she said a good first step would be to reduce the use of single-use plastics that are used one time but then are around for decades.

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