• Desmond Latham

Microplastics found in water across globe


According to research conducted by Orb Media, a high percentage of microplastics can now be found in drinking water across the world.

In a special online publication, Orb has developed the research in conjunction with the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

And it's found that microscopic plastic fibres are flowing out of taps from New York to New Delhi.

"More than 80% of the samples we collected on five continents tested positive for the presence of plastic fibres," they report.

Microplastics are tiny fibres and fragments that were known to infest the world's oceans, but this is the first time a study has focused on drinking water.

The issue of microplastics has begun to worry environmentalists and health experts because plastic breaks down over thousands of years, but never completely disappears or biodegrades like natural products.

"It only breaks down into smaller pieces of itself, even down to particles in nanometre scale – one-one thousandth of one-one thousandth of a millimetre," says the report.

Fibres and particles of that size can move through human cell tissue, which could pose a cancer threat along with other health hazards.

The ten-month investigation found five main culprits which have led to increased amounts of microplastics.

1) Synthetic fibres in clothing – New forms of clothing using plastic as the basic product means more synthetic fibres are entering the water chain. A million tonnes of these enter water annually, according to data collected by Orb.

2) Tyre dust – Cars and trucks emit around 20 grams of tyre dust for every 100km driven, which then means the dust enters rivers and streams, and drinking water.

3) Paint – All forms of paints now contain plastics of some kind, which then wash off walls and roads and into the ocean – and drinking water.

4) Secondary plastics – Knives, forks, spoons, plates, shopping bags all break down and emit microfibres.

5) Microbeads – Now banned but millions of tonnes of these minute plastics which were used in toothpaste, beauty products and other cosmetics are found in oceans and in rivers.

Image : National Ocean Service, USA

Here is an infographic of the resin code of each type of plastic. Data courtesy of Orb Media.

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#microplastics #pollution #cancer

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