PLASTIC MICRO-PARTICLES NOW CONTAMINATING DRINKING WATER
Michael Parkes, Staff Writer
The harmful impact of plastics on the environment, oceans and food systems is commonly known. Most people will have heard about the 18 ton island of plastic floating in the South Plastic with items found from all over the world including the United States, Europe, South America, Russia, Japan, and China. If we believe in our connectedness, we cannot ignore our collective contribution to this issue.
“Environmental organizations estimate that about seven million tons of plastic end up in the seas and oceans each year. This debris pollutes land and water habitats and kills off precious animal and plant species. Furthermore, with plastic pollution we are contaminating a major food source.” [Source]
Research into the issue of plastics in our waterways has revealed it breaks down into tiny micro-particles which are consumed by fish and other sea creatures, evidently ending up on dinner plates consumed with friends and family. Micro-particles of plastic are also being added to everyday hygiene products to enhance teeth cleaning and exfoliation, ultimately polluting waterways and ending up as fish food. All for the sake of hygiene and vanity.
“Researchers have found that the beads are too small to be caught by water treatment plants, so they end up in waterways. There, they act as sponges for toxins—such as pesticides, heavy metals, and phthalates—and are frequently mistaken by fish for food. Roughly 300 million tons of the plastics per year end up in US waterways.” [Source]
Even amongst the abundance of information related to the impacts on Earth, our food systems and our health, not much has changed and the consequence is now 83% of the world’s water supply is polluted with tiny pieces of plastic. That include the tap water you drank this morning, and now a glass of water has an 80% chance or more of not only satisfying your thirst but also providing your body with carcinogens made from petrochemicals.
Orb Media has undertaken the world’s first global research into the micro-particle contamination of tap water. With shocking results indicating that not only have plastic fibers made it into our main stream water in cities, but also that lakes, rivers and some underground supplies are now contaminated. This is because the nanometre size of the plastic can pass right throw water treatment processes, filtration systems and continue to breakdown into smaller particles with no chance of bio-degrading.
“US had the highest contamination rate, at 94%, with plastic fibres found in tap water sampled at sites including Congress buildings, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters, and Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next highest rates. European nations including the UK, Germany and France had the lowest contamination rate, but this was still 72%. The average number of fibres found in each 500ml sample ranged from 4.8 in the US to 1.9 in Europe.” [Source]
While this quotes facts, it also appears to play down the health issues of consuming plastics, yet we should be concerned. A lack of accountability has led to multiple industries contributing to this issue. Research continues to prove there are significant impacts on public health with regards to the increased use of petrochemical based plastic products. At the nanometre size, there is real evidence to suggest these micro-particles are small enough to pass through intestinal linings and lead to significant health problems.
“Chemicals from plastics are a constant part of our daily diet. We generally assume the water bottle holding that pure spring water, the microwave-safe plastic bowl we prepare our meals in, or the styrofoam cup holding a hot drink is there protecting our food and drinks. Rather than acting as a completely inert barrier, these plastics are breaking down and leaching chemicals, including endocrine-disrupting plasticizers like BPA or phthalates, flame retardants, and even toxic heavy metals that are all absorbed into our diets and bodies.” ~Scott Belcher, Ph.D. Research Professor, North Carolina State University, The Endocrine Society
Whether it be a piece of fish, cold filtered craft beer, hydroponically grown kale or a processed slice of white bread, there is now an 80% chance that water used in its processing will have contained plastic fibers. On this current trajectory, it won’t matter if its rain water filled with aerosols from geoengineering the climate, or nano-plastics from 18 tonne islands of trash being consumed by marine life, our immune and digestive system will still be exposed to by-products of the plastics industry.