+38 votes
in General Factchecking by Journeyman (2.1k points)

Clouds now contain microscopic pieces of plastic that in turn are causing “plastic rainfall”, according to a new study.

Scientists fear that these particles of less than 5mm - known as microplastics - could be contaminating “nearly everything we eat and drink”.

by Apprentice (1.6k points)
I believe that this claim is true. The earliest source that I could find was from National Geographic in April 2019. There are numerous other sources, including CNN, Science Direct, Nature Journal, and Wired. Between the consistency of the narratives in these articles, the reputability of the various magazines, and the multi-year chronology of the narrative, this claim appears to be true, and well documented. The Independent is a legitimate magazine, and has a reputation as a fairly credible source. Furthermore, the author, Vishwam Sankaran, has a profile on Linked In that legitimizes their identity as a journalist. Sankaran has more than 500 connections, and a fully documented history of their professional experience as a science journalist. The topic does seem to be well documented prior to this article, but this article focuses on a more recent study which was also documented by the media company Al Jazeera. The only quote that seems questionable is the scientists’ paraphrased belief that they are the first to discover airborne microplastics in the clouds, as the topic appears to have been covered years prior. The writing of the article itself also evokes credibility, as it is not noticeably opinionated, rather documenting the scientific discovery.
by Novice (620 points)
This claim is true and has been researched by many environmentalists. The so-called "plastic rain" is a huge concern for our health and the health of all organisms. These microplastics reside in "the free troposphere" and are major pollutants (Sexton). I think it is interesting how this issue may be ignored because these plastics are not seen unless under a microscope in a lab. Therefore people are less likely to remember how concerning it is.
by Novice (540 points)
great job for using a lot of reliable sources! I liked how you looked into the author and their LinkedIn as well for credibility. As for questioning the paraphrased opinion, it's good you pointed that out.
by Novice (550 points)
This claim and evidence are true and have been tested by many across the globe, one being an example from scientists in eastern China, testing the cloud formation affected by micro-plastics in the air on Mount Tai. They found evidence of fragments where there shouldn't be in the clouds and airflow versus by the land and sea. The details describe in-depth what microplastics are doing to an aspect of our environment and how it could potentially snowball into a much bigger threat. https://www.acs.org/pressroom/presspacs/2023/november/microplastics-found-in-clouds-could-affect-the-weather.html
by Apprentice (1.2k points)
I liked the way you approached this claim; the information is clear and concise, and you went to extra lengths to fact-check this claim and did a lot of work going "upstream"  to find the LinkedIn of the journalist to legitimize their claims about microplastics in rainfall.

23 Answers

+1 vote
by Novice (670 points)

According to the American Chemical Society, this claim is true. 

A group of researchers sampled water vapor on top of a mountain in China. These are some more details from the data collected: 

  • Low-altitude and denser clouds contained greater amounts of microplastics.
  • Particles were made of common polymers, including polyethylene terephthalate, polypropylene, polyethylene, polystyrene and polyamide.
  • The microplastics tended to be smaller than 100 micrometers in length, although some were as long as 1,500 micrometers.
  • Older, rougher particles had more lead, mercury and oxygen attached to their surfaces, which the researchers suggest could facilitate cloud development.

The original article also does a very good job breaking down this information for consumers. 


by Genius (38.8k points)
The bullet point list is really helpful. I like how you structured the fact-check and provided additional information.
+1 vote
by Apprentice (1.6k points)

I believe that this claim is true. I found multiple credited sources that also make this claim that they came to from research studies. Waseda University and the American Chemical Society both have published articles about this finding and how they actually are microplastics found in cloud formations. The scientist from these articles say that they are relatively unsure about how this will effect our drinking water and weather, so it's safe to have some concerns or fear around this findings. 




+1 vote
by Champion (13.1k points)

This claim is true. ACS reported in November 2023 that "researchers have analyzed microplastics in clouds above mountains." They believe these tiny particles found could be factored into cloud formation, which could affect the weather. Judith Enck, president of Beyond Plastics told CNN“Microplastics are in the air we breathe, they’re in our drinking water, they’re in our bodies. If it’s plastic, you’re going to get microplastics sooner or later.” Researchers found low-altitude and denser clouds had greater amounts of microplastics which tended to be smaller than 100 micrometers in length. Also, older and rougher particles contained more lead, mercury and oxygen which could stimulate the development of clouds.


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