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Patna rainwater has high concentration of hazardous microplastics, finds ‘1st-of-its-kind’ IIT study

Microplastics in atmosphere can lead to lung inflammation, increase chance of reproductive issues & cancer. Study by IIT Patna researchers published in Journal of Hazardous Materials.

It’s raining plastic in Patna, quite literally. A first-of-its kind study in India conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology, Patna (IIT Patna) has found the presence of microplastics in rainwater samples from the city.

Microplastics (MPs) — minute plastic particles that are smaller than 5 mm in diameter — are major environmental pollutants and usually result from the breakdown of larger plastic particles.

The study, published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials on 19 June, was conducted by Subrata Hait, an associate professor at the department of civil and environmental engineering at IIT Patna, and Neha Parashar, a doctoral research scholar at the institute.

The researchers, who collected rain samples from urban and peri-urban areas of Patna, found that the urban area had 1959 MPs per square metre each day — a number that, according to the study, was second only to Shanghai, China (2644 MPs/sq. m).

While such research has been previously conducted in countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada, this is the first time it has been done in India.

“Studies have been conducted on microplastic presence in oceans and water bodies in India, but not in the atmosphere. Our research was aimed to fill this gap”, Hait told ThePrint.

The findings, according to the authors, are also significant because they represent a larger problem in India. A study published in the journal Science in 2015 showed that India ranked 12th among the countries with improper management of waste plastics and was projected to be ranked fifth by the year 2025.

On 1 July, 2022, India banned the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of identified single-use plastic items that have “low utility and high littering potential”.

Microplastics in the atmosphere are a major health hazard — studies have shown that they can lead to lung inflammation and increase the possibility of reproductive issues, cancer, and genetic mutations. A major reason is that the immune system is unable to flush them out easily, causing long-term health problems.

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