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Pollution's New Heights

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

Mount Everest

[Image source: Britannica]

Pollution is one of the most pressing issues of our time. It’s no secret that major corporations produce most of the globe’s annual carbon emissions, ultimately plaguing our planet. Through recognizing humanity’s heavy contribution to climate change, it has been identified that 100 energy companies are responsible for 71% of all industrial emissions. Additionally, the top 15 U.S. food-and-beverage production companies, including Hershey Co., Coca-Cola Co., and Campbell Soup Co., generate nearly 630 million metric tons of greenhouse gases every year. Shockingly, these 15 companies alone emit more greenhouse gases than the entirety of Australia (NRDC). You could say that climate change and pollution have reached new heights―metaphorically and literally.

29,032 feet (8,849 meters) is the tallest summit on Earth. Only about 4,000 people in history have been able to survive the challenging and dangerous journey to the top. However, despite the inability for most of humankind to climb this mountain, a byproduct of us has reached the top―microplastic. Microplastics are pieces of plastic that are less than five millimeters long; despite their tiny size, they can easily damage the environment. One such example of microplastics can be seen in various beauty products and toothpastes.

Due to the common nature of microplastics in every-day products, microplastics largely contribute to pollution, specifically, on Mount Everest.

[Image source: The News Minute]

In 2019, the National Geographic completed an expedition which aimed to determine the concentration of microplastics in water bodies atop Mount Everest. Within a few hundred meters of the mountain’s peak, these fibers were discovered in abundance. The hunt for these miniscule pollutants led to the collection of snow samples from 11 locations across the mountain, which ranged from 17,388 feet (5,300 meters) to 27,690 feet (8,440 meters) in height. Unsurprisingly, microplastics were found in every single sample of snow. After careful analysis of the samples, it was estimated that an average of 30 microplastic particles were present for every liter of water. Moreover, results revealed a whooping 119 microplastic particles per liter of water in the most cominatimated sample.

Microplastics discovered from a snow sample at an elevation of 8,440 meter

[Image source: The Guardian]

These fibers were found most abundantly around Base Camp, where mountain climbers spend most of their time. With that revelation, researchers have concluded that these fibers most likely came from clothing, tents, and ropes used by hopeful and determined trekkers.

The fact that pollution has reached new heights, monumental levels that few people will ever see in their lifetimes, is very telling. Thus, we must do all that we can to protect the Earth, our home, from the effects of climate change. While large corporations are mostly responsible for ruining our planet, we must do our part to protect the environment as well. It is crucial that we reflect on our individual lifestyles and take the necessary steps to lessen our carbon footprints.

Work Cited:

[1] Axelrod, Joshua. "Corporate Honesty and Climate Change: Time to Own Up and Act." NRDC, 26 Feb. 2019,

[2] Carrington, Damian. "Microplastic Pollution Found Near Summit of Mount Everest." The Guardian, 20 Nov. 2020,

[3] Engage the Chain. "Top US Food and Beverage Companies Scope 3 Emissions Disclosure and Reductions." Engage the Chain, 29 Sept. 2019,

[4] NOAA. "What Are Microplastics?" NOAA's National Ocean Service, 26 Feb. 2021,

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