The answer is probably yes. An average American adult produces around 234 lbs of plastic each year. Approximately 9% reaches recycling and the total amount of waste produced across the entire nation is 38.6 million tons! That’s just residential waste, when you factor in plastic waste from companies, it becomes a staggering figure. We rely on plastic because it’s easy to make, tough, durable, and flexible enough to shape into different products. But, our throwaway culture and the refusal to shift to other alternatives by big business means that we have a huge plastic pollution problem. One of the worst problems that we have to deal with is microplastics that can be found in our drinking water.
What are Microplastics?
Plastic endures. It’s very hard to break down after dumping in a landfill site and it could last for hundreds or even thousands of years. When plastic breaks into small pieces, it is collectively known as microplastics and they have been detected in streams, rivers, reservoirs, and oceans. Surface water is harvested in many areas for human consumption after it’s been treated at a municipal water treatment plant. But, at the moment, there is no guarantee that microplastics will be removed from the drinking water. The fragments of plastic were just too small and significant investment in the filtration infrastructure would be needed to remove them.
Can I See Microplastics?
Maybe, they are typically smaller than 5 mm which is about the size of a single grain of rice. But, many fragments are smaller than 5 microns which means that they cannot be seen with your naked eye. Although your next glass of drinking water may look clean and fresh, it could contain microplastics. The composition of microplastics is hydrogen and carbon atoms held together in polymer chains. There are three main chemicals present, they are phthalates, polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDEs), and tetrabromobisphenol (TBBPA). These chemicals are harmful to the environment because they can leach out of microplastics and plastic waste.
How Do Microplastics Enter Our Drinking Water?
Studies have shown that approximately 94% of American tap water contains some level of microplastic contamination. This even includes the U.S. Capitol, the Congress building, and most ironically of all, the offices of the EPA. There six main channels where microplastics can enter our drinking water supplies, they are:
- Surface run-off from tire debris and road-marking paint.
- Plastic waste flushed down toilets.
- Discarded plastic items such as utensils, water bottles, and old shower curtains.
- Plastic items designed for single use, such as grocery bags, cups, disposable diapers, straws, food containers, and more.
- Run-off from industrial locations that use plastic related processes.
- Run-off from agricultural locations that use certain plastics.
What Are the Health Risks?
A report published by the WHO in 2019 clearly stated that microplastic particles do represent a risk to health. Many scientists believe that the accumulation of microplastics in the body could lead to a toxic reaction. But, more research is needed in this area to confirm the validity of these theories.
What Can I Do About Microplastic Pollution?
We spend most of our time at home and that is usually where we ingest the most water each day. Installing a last barrier of filtration to remove microplastics and other small particles is advisable. Ask your local water treatment specialist about a reverse osmosis filter system for your home today.
By EcoWater Systems.
EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is the largest water treatment company in the state and is a member of Water Quality Association.