Publication Year



microplastics, persistent organic pollutants, atmospheric deposition, shielding


Environmental Chemistry | Environmental Health | Polymer Chemistry | Toxicology


The ubiquity of microplastic particles in the environment is causing irreversible ecological damage to organisms and threatening human health on a global scale. It is not fully known how microplastics react in the environment, but it is hypothesized that their combined sorption with other pathogens, such as 4-nonlyphenol, a persistent organic pollutant (POP) and endocrine disruptor, amplifies the ecotoxicological effects of microplastics in marine organisms and humans. The combined relationship between microplastics and sorbed 4-nonylphenol – regarding their partitioning abilities, long-range atmospheric transport, and deposition in snow and glaciers – has never been explored. Ice core sample from three glaciers: Palisades, Middle Palisades, and Dinwoody Glaciers in the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains were tested for microplastic particles and compared to known 4-nonylphenol concentrations in the same mountain ranges. Microplastic particles were characterized by filtering snow samples and analyzed using fluorescence microscopy. In total, 4,467 total microplastic fibers and particles were found across all glaciers with an average 4-nonylphenol concentration of .0640 mg/L. Since glaciers provide proxy data for physical airborne characteristics, these values demonstrate that both glaciers store a significant amount of microplastic particles and 4-nonlyphenol that will be reintroduced into the environment as the climate continues to warm.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

Environmental Studies

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.