microplastics in water

The Tiny New Culprit: Microplastics and Water Contamination

You don’t have to be an environment and sustainability geek to know that the world is drowning in plastic.


Unfortunately, metaphors are no longer a language embellishment tool in this area; microplastics in water have become reality. For instance, check this heart-breaking, stomach churning, anger inducing photo here:bird sits in plastic

And there are many more where this came from.

Big, wet-eyed seals resting on a bed of tangled web of fishing gear and other plastic marine debris instead of pristine, untampered sea shore paraphernalia, endangered giant turtles that are swimming dressed in fishing nets, penguins wearing deathly plastic necklaces and fish dining on microplastic particles are just a few horrendous examples.

Plastic pollution is of course, not limited to the wondrous world of animals. Plastic pollution is as dangerous for animals and the environment as it is for humans.

Toxic chemicals found in plastics such as Bisphenol-A’s and phthalates pose a real concern to human-health, being related to various ailments, including cancer, birth defects and weak immunity.

These chemicals leach out of plastic products and wind up in our blood and tissues.

To put things in context, let’s throw in some figures:

  • 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s and the amount of plastic produced in one a year is approximately the same as the entire weight of humanity
  • Only about 9% of all the plastic ever made has likely been recycled. Bearing in mind that plastic cannot biodegrade, you can see why this is more than a trifling issue on the human agenda
  • 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the oceans each year
  • 1 million plastic bottles are both every minute around the globe

As if those figures were not grim enough, a group of scientists has recently uncovered that bottled-water belonging to major brands is contaminated with microplastics.

If you want to go straight to the source and read the very complex and very technical study, give it a go here. If not, stick with me, and I will keep it short and simple.

What are Microplastics?

Microplastics are plastic particles less than 5 mm (or 5000 microns) in size that negatively impact on the aquatic life and are a potential hazard to humans. Research into this area is still in its infancy; however, we do know a thing or two about them.

Microplastics originate from various sources, including synthetic fibers, microbeads coming from health, beauty and cleaning products as well as the deterioration of larger pieces of plastic.

Microplastics in bottled waterbottled water

A recent study conducted by scientists at the State University in New York and commissioned by Orb Media has revealed that bottled-water is riddled with microplastics. The findings have prompted the WHO to take action, the organization announcing the launch of a review into the potential risks associated with plastics in drinking water.

The study tested 259 bottles of water from 11 brands, including Evian, Aquafina, and Nestle Pure Life, and found that 93% of them were subject to microplastic contamination.

In terms of the actual quantity of plastic present in the water bottles, the study found an average of 10 plastic particles over 100 microns (approximately the size of a sesame seed) per liter of water and smaller particles (between 6.5 and 100 microns) at an average of 314 per liter.

Is Tap Water Safer then?water tap

For those hoping that tap water might be the safe oasis in the desert storm of microplastics, I am sorry to crush your hopes. Tap water is also contaminated with water, to a lesser extent though as study reveals.

Orb Media also conducted an analysis on samples of tap water from more than a dozen countries, and the outcome was that 83% of the samples were contaminated with plastic fibers. The US was the ‘winner’ with 94% of synthetic fibers found in tap water, Lebanon and India being the runners-up. Among the European nations UK, Germany and France had the lowest scores; however, the contamination rate was still 72%.

The question that begs an answer is whether those plastic particles are harmful to human health. For now, the answer is shrouded in mystery.

Are Microplastics Harmful?

The fact on which all scientists agree is that some of those plastic particles are big enough to be execrated. Even though the bigger particles are execrated, they can release toxic chemicals in the detriment of our health. This is where the unanimity stops.

The smaller plastic particles are the more controversial ones. These tiny microplastics might potentially travel across the gastrointestinal tract, across the lining into the bloodstream. From there they can reach various organs, and the implications for our health have not been confirmed yet.

However, the UK’s Food Standards Agency stated that it is unlikely that the levels of microplastic found in water pose a threat. Similarly, a toxicologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology said that there is little health concern in microplastics as our bodies have become well-adapted in managing those undegradable compounds.

The European’s Unions evolution on the presence of microplastics in food estimated that only a small fraction of the particles consumed through seafood may penetrate the organs at a deep level and the exposure to toxins is low.

But, wait!

There is a counter-argument to this, namely that these estimates are based on scientific models rather than on laboratory studies.

One thing is sure enough though: plastic does not need to go through the entire marine ecosystem to end up in our plates through seafood. We can get it straight from the supermarket! Or even ‘better,’ straight from the comfort of our homes.

How do we get rid of microplastics then? You may ask.

Well, you’ve stumbled upon the right website to get the answer to this question:

There are a few things you can do. First of all, you can stop buying water in plastic bottles and even if you are buying a reusable bottle, I would strongly suggest you get a glass one.

Another thing you can is to get water filtration.

This is a no brainer. You will keep water clean from microplastics as well as you save money on buying bottled one and at the same time you reduce waste.

Triple WIN!

If you give a quick gloss over the contents of the website, you’ll see a plethora of articles on water filters and ways to cleanse water.

Carbon water filters are an excellent environmentally friendly choice to combat those pesky and mysterious particles.

Alternatively, you can combine water filtration with other water purifying technologies, such as reverse osmosis, in order to max out the removal of plastics and microplastics.

In one of the following articles I will talk more about how we can reduce our usage of plastic and stop this madness as well as how we can reduce our water consumption, so please keep checking this blog and don’t forget to subscribe!

As a conclusory remark, remember that:

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.W. H. Auden

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