Microplastics in water – a worldwide problem
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Microplastics and plastic waste do not only pollute the world’s oceans and seas. Billions of people and marine animals (like sea turtles) take these invisible tiny plastic particles into their bodies every day.
- Microplastics in water – a worldwide problem
- Where do microplastics come from and how dangerous are they?
- How dangerous are microplastic particles?
- Microplastics are everywhere?
- How do microplastics affect people?
- How to remove microplastics from drinking water?
- Microplastics removal from drinking water
- Why are microplastics so resistant?
- Why are they dangerous?
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Where do microplastics come from and how dangerous are they?
Microscopic plastic particles are found in tap water all over the world. This is the result of many recent studies.
The latest scientific research has shown that seas, rivers and lakes, soil and air are polluted with these tiny particles. This study showed for the first time that there is plastic even in tap water.
For the study, 150 samples of tap water from cities on five continents were taken. 83 percent of the samples contained plastic particles. This means that only 17 percent of the samples did not contain plastic particles. The study only investigated the presence of plastic, and did not deal with its toxicity or health hazards.
However, the authors of the study warn: if there are synthetic fibers in the water, they are probably also in the food. Experts assume that these microparticles come from synthetic textiles, carpets and furniture. But it is unclear how plastic particles get into the water.
How dangerous are microplastic particles?
Plastic particles that enter the human body can also introduce poisons, experts say. It has been clearly shown in animals “that these toxic chemicals are being separated from the plastic and that the conditions in the digestive system further promote this separation.”
Plastic harms animals, and that’s reason enough for concern. If it harms animals for sure it harms humans too.
But no one knows yet how dangerous plastic microparticles are, research on microplastics and human health is still in its early stages.
There are plastic particles in water pipes all over the world – rich or poor countries. The same amount of plastic microparticles was found in the tap water different part of the world. Microplastics have also been found in bottled water as well as in households that have reverse osmosis filters. 94 percent of the samples from one study contained microplastic particles.
Microplastics are everywhere?
Microplastics definition is that microplastics include any piece of plastic smaller than 5 millimeters such as clothing fibers, beads, plastic granules and pieces of broken plastic.
Microplastics can get into the environment by the decomposition of plastic objects due to natural weathering processes. Let’s say, high temperatures lead to the melting of plastic objects and there you have microplastics and plastic pollution at every step.
When it comes to the impact of microplastics on animals, these particles are real micro-killers. It has been confirmed that many species of plankton introduce microplastics into their digestive system, which creates a false sense of satiety, which ultimately leads to the death of these organisms.
Fish, shellfish, shrimp, sea cucumbers, starfish, crabs and crabs also ingest microplastics in large quantities, causing digestive disorders and injuries from the sharp edges of the plastic.
What scientists are particularly concerned about is the possibility of microplastics being embedded in the tissues of living organisms and causing a whole series of disorders. The presence of microplastics in the pancreas, digestive tract and even the brain of fish has been recorded. The question arises as to how long it takes for microplastics to appear in our tissue.
How do microplastics affect people?
There are still no unified studies that prove the harmful impact of microplastics on people.
Therefore, it can not be certainly claimed that microplastics are harmful to humans just because we assume that everything that contains the word “plastic” is dangerous. However, based on everything we know about microplastics, we can’t claim that they are safe either.
For now, it is known that plastic is lipophilic, that is, it dissolves in fats, which opens up the possibility for it to be incorporated into lipid tissues. It has also been proven that microplastics in contact with cells can cause inflammatory processes, but it is not certain that these particles even penetrate our tissues to cause such damage.
A recent study suggests that people have the highest chance of ingesting microplastics when they consume shellfish, oysters and mussels. These foods aren’t exactly on our regular menu, but that doesn’t mean we’re safe. Fish like tuna eat smaller fish contaminated with microplastics, so there is no doubt that microplastics end up on our tables in certain quantities. And not only that – we also ingest microplastics while drinking, because bottled water contains large amounts of these particles due to the bottling process itself.
Microplastics are present in our stool, but it is not known what microplastics do to our bodies when we ingest them through food. Whether these particles just pass through the digestive tract without leaving any consequences or whether they affect our health remains to be seen.
Also of concern is the use of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals used to make plastics, as well as the ability of plastics to bind heavy metals.
For example, BPA is a substance used to harden plastics and even a small exposure to this chemical can cause a whole range of disorders – from cardiovascular disease to type 2 diabetes. It is interesting that the European Union and Canada have banned the use of BPA in baby bottles.
Also, microplastic fibers can combine with metals, creating new compounds. Although microplastics seem to be not so harmful to humans, it is possible that their particles are a “vehicle” by which we ingest heavy metals such as mercury and lead.
How to remove microplastics from drinking water?
It is encouraging that most microplastics are removed from drinking water in the filtration processes, and remain trapped in sludge and sediment. Another problem is that this sludge is often used as an alternative fertilizer, so the microplastics are again exposed to the sun and weather conditions. In this way, plastic particles can get into the rainwater and the microplastic cycle continues.
One thing is certain – microplastic particles are everywhere! In food, in water, in cosmetics, and they can also be in the air. Exposure to these particles cannot be avoided, but can be reduced by using ecological packaging and additional water filtration. Let’s hope that recent scientific research will show that microplastics have not greatly damaged human health, although we must definitely move towards reducing the use of plastics to prevent further destruction of the living world.
Once we start thinking about alternatives and start using them, ideas about replacing everyday plastic items with some better and environmentally friendly alternative will be born by themselves.
Bottled water today is marketed as the pinnacle of purity and is the fastest growing beverage market in the world, worth $147 billion a year. But new research by Orb Media, a nonprofit journalism organization in Washington, shows that a single bottle can contain galaxies of microscopic pieces of plastic.
Bottled water is extremely important to more than 2.1 billion people in the world, where drinking water is not safe. The United Nations says that approximately 4,000 children die every day from diseases caused by unclean water.
More than 90 percent of consumed microplastics can pass through the intestines without any problems, according to the UN report on plastics in seafood.
The other 10 percent, plastic smaller than 15 microns (0.15 millimeters), can enter the intestinal lymphatic system or pass through the bloodstream to the kidneys and liver, says the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Today’s bottled water contains pieces of plastic of this size.
Microplastics removal from drinking water
Carbon block filters and fine sediment filters can be used to remove a great quantity of microplastics from your water. Some of them can even remove 100%.
The Home Master Filter Pressure Performance Series uses oversized filters, housings, and fittings to ensure a good water pressure.
Multi-gradient depth polypropylene sediment filter and a radial flow granular activated carbon filter will protect your water supply from unexpected quality changes.
Home reverse osmosis systems of ultrafiltration systems will totally remove microplastics from water.
- Filters chlorine, rust, sediments, turbidity and microscopic impurities as little as 0.1 micron such as bacteria, microplastics, including sub-microplastics, all while retaining essential minerals
- Advanced 4-stage filtration process with medical-grade hollow fiber membrane
- NSF ANSI/CAN 42 standards and JIS (Japanese Industrial Standards) 3201
- This medical-grade filtration technology is capable of filtering microscopic impurities as little as 0.1 micron—that includes microplastics and even sub-microplastics!
- Manufactured by Toray Industries
- Fits most standard faucets
Why are microplastics so resistant?
It is their chemical structure, which makes them so stable and resistant, that makes plastics less susceptible to the processes that cause degradation in the environment, which are primarily carried out by microorganisms (bacteria, microscopic fungi).
Microorganisms are incapable of breaking down plastics that enter the environment, they cannot utilize and transform them as nutrients.
Plastics are also very resistant to chemical processes, and their oxidation occurs very slowly.
Why are they dangerous?
In addition to long-lasting environmental pollution, some components often create permanent changes in the genetics of living beings even at extremely low concentrations, reducing the ability to reproduce and increasing the number of mutations.
As they get smaller, they also enter the food chain, can accumulate in organisms, and represent an almost unpredictable source of danger for the future.
Plastics are unthinkable without stabilizers, plasticizers, flame retardants, colorants and other additives, otherwise hard PVC pipes or easily bendable PVC floorboards could not be made of the same material.
Additives give not only their versatility, but also their resistance.