The news of the scale of micro plastic contamination has been shared across the globe at a lightning speed.
No wonder. It’s extremely alarming to learn that plastic fibers have been found in tap water across the world. Chances are that wherever you are in the world, you are ingesting plastic through the water you drink and the food you eat.
A study undertaken by Orbmedia shows billions of people globally are drinking water contaminated by plastic fibers, with 83% of 159 samples taken on five continents found to be polluted. The research was performed at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. The samples came from across the world.
Microscopic plastic fibers are flowing out of taps from New York to New Delhi. From the halls of the U.S. Capitol to the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda, women, children, men, and babies are consuming plastic with every glass of water, states the report.
This is really frightening.
Micro plastics have been shown to absorb toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other illnesses, and to then release them when consumed by fish and mammals, which in turn, we humans consume.
A lovely cycle of toxins that we can’t escape from.
It’s not only plastic bags, containers and bottles that are the problem. The real culprits are even closer – in synthetic clothes that we wear, our shoes, the upholstery we sit on, the carpets we walk on, the blankets we sleep under. Plastic fibers are as ubiquitous as the dust in the air.
It gets worse: no specific procedures exist for filtering or containing them.
“We have enough data from looking at wildlife, and the impacts that it’s having on wildlife, to be concerned,” Dr Sherri Mason, a micro plastic expert at the State University of New York in Fredonia, who supervised the analyses for Orb told The Guardian. “If it’s impacting [wildlife], then how do we think that it’s not going to somehow impact us?”
Scientist sounds health alarm
Dr Anne Marie Mahon at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, who conducted a similar but small study in the Republic of Ireland that also found micro plastic contamination in tap water and well samples, warned about the dangers of very small plastic particles and the chemicals or pathogens that they can harbor.
“If the fibers are there, it is possible that the nanoparticles are there too that we can’t measure. Once they are in the nanometer range they can penetrate a cell and that means they can penetrate organs, and that would be worrying,” she told The Guardian.
And don’t think for a moment that you can always drink beer instead of water. That escape route is also closed. Studies in Germany have found fibers and fragments in all of the 24 beer brands that were tested.
There are a number of theories on how we have ended up with plastic in our water, but that is really not helpful. We have known for many years that plastic is not biodegradable, we know it’s not exactly digestible food for any living thing. What we need is a concerted effort to get rid of the sickening plastic waste accumulation, images of which turns the stomach.
And we need to come up with either an alternative material or limit our dependence on plastic drastically.
Now there is a worthwhile pursuit for materials scientists.