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Microplastics have been found meters deep in the soil

Microplastics have been found meters deep in the soil

Archaeologists found small plastic particles in soil samples up to 7 meters deep, dating back to the first or early second century AD. It turns out that this is not harmful: plastics can damage archaeological materials.

Microplastics are small plastic particles ranging in size from 1 micrometer to 5 mm and can be found everywhere these days. In our food, in our care products, in the air, and in our bodies. They end up in the environment partly because larger pieces of plastic break down slowly, but also because of the release of textile fibers and the use of plastic in cosmetics. Not only is this harmful to our health and the health of the planet, but a lot of knowledge about past cultures could be lost too, as new research now shows.

Small plastic particles can change soil chemistry and thus affect organic matter, potentially endangering archaeological remains. This is the conclusion of researchers from universities York And Hull After examining soil samples taken in 1988 at archaeological sites near… Queens Hotel And the Wellington row In York. The study found 16 different types of microplastic polymers in contemporary and preserved specimens.

Soil chemistry
Archaeologists believe that the presence of microplastics in the soil is worrying. Best preserved archaeological sites, such as Viking finds in CoppergateFor example, it has been in a stable environment for centuries, which means that the organic materials are well preserved. If there are microplastics in this environment, it could cause organic matter to decompose, says CEO David Jennings. York Archeology. “The presence of microplastics can alter soil chemistry, potentially introducing elements that cause organic waste to rot. Microplastics can therefore jeopardize the scientific value of archaeological sites.”

Microplastics in the 1980s
The fact that microplastics exist deep in the ground does not come as a complete surprise, says Professor John Schofield from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. “This confirms what we should have expected: that archaeological sites previously considered primitive and ripe for exploration are in fact polluted with plastic.” However, surprisingly, the particles have been found in samples taken as far back as the 1980s. “We consider microplastics to be a very recent phenomenon because we have only heard about them in the last 20 years,” Jennings said. “It was not until Professor Richard Thompson revealed in 2004 that they were widespread in our seas. So we are aware of the presence of plastics in oceans and rivers, but it is only now that we see that our historical heritage also contains toxic elements.

The research team stresses that more research is needed to determine the extent to which microplastics affect soil chemistry and thus their impact on organic matter. This can have serious consequences for the management of archaeological sites. Many archaeological finds are currently preserved “in situ”. In other words, in its original location as well Coppergate. “If the presence of microplastics alters soil chemistry, in situ preservation of relics may not be appropriate in the future,” Jennings concludes.