Microplastic Contamination in Snow from Western Italian Alps

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jan 18;18(2):768. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18020768.


Recent studies have documented the presence of microplastics (MPs) in remote areas, including soils or sediments collected in mountain and glacier environments, but information on their presence in snow is scant. The present study aimed at exploring the presence of MPs in residual snow collected in four locations of the Aosta Valley (Western Italian Alps), with different accessibility and human presence. Overall, the µ-FTIR analyses confirmed the presence of 18 MPs in snow, 7 (39%) items were fibres, while 11 (61%) were fragments. Polyethylene (PE; 7 MPs) was the main polymer, followed by polyethylene terephthalate (PET; 3 MPs), high density PE (HDPE; 3 MPs), polyester (2 MPs), while only 1 MP made by low density PE, polypropylene and polyurethane were found. The mean (± SE) concentration of MPs in snow ranged between 0.39 ± 0.39 MPs/L and 4.91 ± 2.48 MPs/L, with a mean of 2.32 ± 0.96 MPs/L for the sampling locations. The concentration of MPs did not statistically differ among locations. Our results suggest that MPs presence in high-mountain ecosystems might depend on deposition through atmospheric precipitations or local sources due to human activities. For these reasons, policies aiming at reducing plastic use and dispersal in mountain areas may be effective in preventing local MP contamination.

Keywords: Aosta Valley; Italian Alps; MPs; high-mountain; pollution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Microplastics*
  • Plastics
  • Snow
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / analysis


  • Microplastics
  • Plastics
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical