Published: Sat, September 09, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

You're drinking plastic fibers nearly every time you sip tap water

You're drinking plastic fibers nearly every time you sip tap water

Lebanon also had a 94% contamination rate, and India was next-most contaminated, with 82% of samples containing plastic.

And as the study, performed by scientists around the world as part of an investigation by Orb Media, included sample tests done in Jakarta, those of us living in the Indonesian capital have a good idea just how scared we should be (as if we didn't have enough environmental dangers to worry about already). North American samples had the highest plastic density, while European countries had the lowest. The authors of the study say we're living in the Plastic Age - and the contamination probably is not limited to our water.

Nearly 300mn tonnes of plastic is produced each year and, with just 20% recycled or incinerated, much of it ends up littering the air, land and sea.

The theory is that particles get into water through many common means. "If it's impacting (wildlife), then how do we think that it's not going to somehow impact us?"

The data on the impact of microplastics on humans is still lacking, but research on animals has suggested the particles can cause cancer, hormone disorders and other problems when they release chemicals during digestion.

Even bottled water was not clean, the study found, with the plastics being found in many of U.S.' top bottled water brands. Finding it in the water we drink just goes to show that we've dumped so much of the stuff, and so irresponsibly, that it's been able to overload the natural and artificial filtration systems we've relied on for so long. Rains could also sweep up microplastic pollution. One likely source is the atmosphere.

'Another possibility is that when you wash synthetic clothes they shed a large number of microscopic fibres and waste treatment plants don't catch them all. It's the people who've got the washing machine's fault.

"We are increasingly smothering ecosystems in plastic and I am very anxious that there may be all kinds of unintended, adverse consequences that we will only find out about once it is too late", said prof Roland Geyer, from the University of California and Santa Barbara, who led the study.

The water testing was conducted by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health on behalf of Orb Media, a nonprofit media organization that focuses on global development issues.

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