Microplastics in water
Recently, there has been a huge influx of information regarding the impact plastics are having on the environment, the animals that live in their respective habitats and now – humans? Microplastics are being found in tap water world-wide. In this blog, we’re going to be discussing what a microplastic is, where they come from, how they’re impacting the planet and what you can do to protect yourself from ingesting them.
FACT: Various plastics can take anywhere between 20-500 years to naturally decompose, and some plastics taking over 1000 years.
What is a microplastic?
“Microplastics, defined as small (less than 5mm in length) pieces of any kind of plastic debris, have been found in rivers, lakes, drinking water supplies, and in bottled water.” Meaning that the majority of microplastics are invisible to the naked eye, making it near impossible to distinguish them from regular water contaminants.
Microplastics can be broken down (pardon the pun) into two main categories:
Primary microplastics: these include microbeads, nurdles and fibres. These are manufactured as microplastics, that is as particles of 5mm or smaller. They easily pass through sewage treatment plants that don’t have the appropriately sized filters to catch them.
Secondary microplastics: are formed by larger “parent” plastics breaking down. UV rays, wind and wave action causes plastic to fragment into millions of smaller pieces. A good example of secondary microplastics are the resulting polystyrene fragments breaking off fish & chip boxes at the beach. These make their way straight into the ocean if not disposed of properly.
Where do microplastics come from?
Some of the microplastics we find in nature come from cosmetic products, other microplastics are the direct result of plastic pollution, namely it’s plastic that breaks down into smaller pieces when exposed to the elements.
One of the most common microplastics that you might know of are microbeads. These are small and unnecessary plastic beads used in exfoliating and personal care products to help scrub off dead skin.
Proper studies into plastics in water only really began in the last couple of years, so the evidence available so far is, the WHO admits, limited.
However, professors world-wide have been looking into this concerning topic. This is after microplastics have been found in human stools back in 2018. Up to nine different plastics were found out of 10 varieties tested for, in particles of sizes ranging from 50 to 500 micrometres and on average, 20 particles of microplastic were found in each 10g of excreta.
Philipp Schwabl, a researcher at the Medical University of Vienna who led the study, said: “This is the first study of its kind and confirms what we have long suspected, that plastics ultimately reach the human gut. Of particular concern is what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases.”
““The smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the bloodstream, the lymphatic system, and may even reach the liver,” said Schwabl. “Now that we have the first evidence for microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health.”
We understand that water is not the only source of microplastics potentially entering the body, as almost every animal found in the sea have been found with microplastics in their gut. What we do understand is that water is an essential part of life which everyone has to drink on a daily basis, and something as simple as a water filter could benefit your health massively.
This is particularly concerning as down the food chain, animals are eating lesser animals which contain microplastics themselves, further adding to the problem. Not to mention the 1000s of particles they are picking up which are floating in the ocean whilst they are swimming around. When it comes around to us humans eating fish and other mammals, we don’t know what affect microplastics are having on these animals and ultimately, the effect it will have on us.
How do we filter out microplastics from our water?
The smallest recorded microplastic was measured at 1.6 micrometer. 1 micrometer is equal to 1 micron, meaning any sub-micron filter will be sure to protect you from microplastics. A sub-micron filter is any filter which has a micron rating below 1 micron.
We have plenty of options on our online store, including the Doulton Cryptosporidium & DUO Undersink kit (0.9-micron, ceramic), 3M AP2 kit (0.5-micron, carbon block) and Reverse Osmosis units. You can find the links to these below.
As always, any questions you may have regarding this topic or any other questions regarding contaminants in water, feel free to contact our team on 01704 807600 who would be happy to help.