Tests on tap water from around the world have shown that much of the water we drink is contaminated with microplastic fibres.
New research published by Orb Media has revealed that 83% of tap water samples, taken from various sites around the world, were contaminated with microscopic plastic fibres.
Here in the UK and in Germany and France, microfibres were found in 72% of samples, but in the USA, 94% of all samples were contaminated. More fibres were found per sample in the US too, with an average of 4.8 per 500ml sample in the US against 1.9 in the UK and Europe.
So how are the fibres getting into the water? Scientists think that many of them are falling into water from the air. In the US, almost 80% of households have tumble dryers that vent into the outdoors and this could be releasing lots of fibres. It has already been shown that up to 700,000 microfibres can be released into a single load in a washing machine, coming from items of clothing made from synthetic fibres like fleeces. So it's quite likely that tumble dryers would also in turn release microfibres into the air.
Research carried out in Paris in 2015 showed that up to 10 tonnes of plastic microfibres fall onto the city from the air each year. Current water treatment standards don't filter out microfibres, but it seems that more a lot work will have to be done to improve the situation.
Plastics tend to attract toxic chemicals in water, which stick to the fibres. If those fibres are then eaten by something (including us), the toxins can be released into their body. Lots more research needs to be carried out, but what is already clear is that plastics are getting into our lives, our homes and even the water we drink and the air we breathe. We are only just beginning to realise how much plastics are impacting upon the environment.
Whilst their usefulness means we're not going to stop using plastic anytime soon, we need to be much more careful about how much we each use. And even more importantly, we need to minimise the amount we throw away and make sure that what we do throw away is recycled properly.
Photo by Cjames Fotografia