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Plastic particles found in drinking water across the world

A recent study has revealed that drinking water in more than a dozen countries around the world is contaminated with micro particles of plastic. The consequences on human health are yet unknown.

Drinking water in more than a dozen countries around the world has been found contaminated with micro particles of plastic a recent scientific study has revealed. About 83 per cent of the water samples tested during a research project commissioned by journalism organisation Orb Media contained plastic fibres, with the United States presenting the highest contamination rate at 94 per cent in cities like New York and Washington DC.

Read more: The world’s oceans will be home to more plastic than fish by 2050

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A recent study has found plastic particles in the majority of samples of drinking water it tested © David Silverman/Getty Images

Micro particles of plastic in the oceans

Whilst the presence of plastic particles in the oceans is well documented, as are its negative consequences for the marine fauna, we are yet to understand what the consequences of ingesting plastic fibres could be for humans. Scientists are concerned both about the possible presence in drinking water of plastic nanoparticles, as reported by the Guardian, which we can’t measure but which could penetrate our cells and organs, as well as the chemicals and pathogens that plastic can harbour.

Read more: Stella McCartney and Parley for the Oceans team up to clean the seas from plastic

The effects of plastic pollution

Previous research conducted on wild animals has shown that plastic releases toxic chemicals within animals’ bodies. “It became clear very early on that the plastic would release those chemicals and that actually, the conditions in the gut would facilitate really quite rapid release,” according to Professor Richard Thompson from Plymouth University in the UK, whose study revealed that a third of fish caught in the UK contains microplastic.

Data that has recently become available has begun to reveal the wider scale of global plastic contamination, with micro particles found in various German beers, honey, sugar and also falling from the sky, with three to ten tonnes of fibres estimated to be deposited each year in the city of Paris alone.

Read more: Ocean plastic. Billionaire Kjell Inge Rokke donates high-tech vessel to the scientific community

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Plastic pollution in Manila bay, in the Philippines © Jes Aznar/Getty Images

Uncertainty shouldn’t prevent action

Scientists have called for more, necessary research to assess the full scale of the problem and the consequences it has on our health. And while for the time being researchers are still assessing the reasons behind contamination of drinking water there are some precautions we all can take to contribute to reducing the problem.

Recycling properly, buying products that don’t contain plastic particles like microbeads, and limiting the number of times we wash synthetic clothing – which has been found to release hundreds of thousands of particles into the environment at each wash – are just some of the many steps to reduce our environmental footprint.

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