The Root of Microplastics in Plants

Read the full story from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Over the last decade, scientists have been scrambling to understand the impacts of microplastics. With the breakdown of plastic bottles, washing the world’s seven billion fleece jackets, or the microbeads in face cleansers, microplastics are piling up. How they affect living things like plants is still unclear.

In soil, plastics have the potential to cause problems at the chemical level. Like a magnetic attraction, contaminants can bind to plastics, resulting in toxic accumulation. Contaminants can also hitch a free ride on plastics and potentially make their way into plants. But first, researchers need to know if microplastics—or their even smaller offspring called nanoplastics—can get into plant cells in the first place.

Here’s some good news: they don’t, according to a recent study from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Washington State University (WSU). However, microplastics do accumulate on the tips of roots, which could bode well for future cleanup of contaminated environments, but not well for root crops, like carrots.

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