We all have seen the alarming amounts of plastic that litter our oceans and lands surrounding the globe that have increased the amount of harm in our ecosystem. There are different factors which contribute to the overwhelming amount of plastic such as mishandled human disposal, irresponsible business manufacturing and plant waste, second hand breakaway particles from clothing, tires and paint from houses and roads. If plastic is found in large areas of water and land by the masses, is microplastic contamination something to worry about in our drinking water?
In 2017, ORB Media conducted an experiment at the State University of New York in Fredonia which tested 259 individual plastic bottles from a variety of 27 lots spanning along 11 different brands of water in 9 different countries. This study found the majority of water was contaminated with plastic threads “each larger than the width of a human hair.” (Shukman, 2018, p.1). In the USA alone, 94% of the tested water contained particles that exceeded the government limit of several types of plastic. With Europe having the lowest percentage at a high 72%, Worldwide within the 9 different countries there was 83% contamination throughout the tested water.
At the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, ORB also launched an experiment in testing the plastic content in Tap water across 5 continents. In this particular study, they found that over 80% of the tested water contained plastic fibers proving the problem is not solely due to packaging in various types of plastic. This also means the water you use to brew your morning coffee or boil your spaghetti in also contain plastic molecules and are being absorbed by the refreshments and foods you are enjoying.
As plastic is not completely biodegradable, it breaks down through photo-oxidation into the nanometer scale which can allow plastic particles to pass through the intestinal wall and travel throughout the body (Morrison, Tyree, 2017, p.1). This can be especially dangerous because plastic absorbs toxic chemicals that cause cancer and other health-threatening illnesses which eventually get released when ingested by living organisms. The professor at State University of New York in Fredonia who lead the analysis made the point that “It’s not about pointing fingers at particular brands; it’s really showing that this is everywhere, that plastic has become such a pervasive material in our society, and it’s pervading water – all of these products that we consume at a very basic level” (Shukman, 2018, p.1). If we are mindful of how we eliminate our plastic in everyday life and we can all strive to make a difference!
Written by Taylor Glenn
Sources and further reading:
Chris Tyree-Dan Morrison, 2017 – https://orbmedia.org/stories/Invisibles_plastics/
Plastic Particles Found in Bottled Water
David Shukman, 2018 – https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-43388870
Fredonia State University of New York Department of Geology & Environmental Sciences