Plastic in our drinking water

Plastic is probably not something that we want to ingest, but we are, whether through our tap water, beer or juice. Tiny pieces of plastic have been found in drinking water on five continents – from Trump Tower in New York to a public tap on the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda – posing a potential risk to people's health, researchers have reported early in September.

Plastic degrades over time into tiny particles known as microplastics, which were found in 83% of samples from Germany to Cuba to Lebanon analysed by US-based digital news organisation Orb Media.

plastic in our water
Plastic degrades over time into tiny particles known as microplastics and has been found in 83% of samples taken globally.
Image credit: Pixabay

If you ask people whether they want to be eating or drinking plastic, they just say 'No, that's a dumb question'," says Sherri Mason, one of the study's authors and a chemistry professor at the State University of New York. " It's in our food, sea-salt, mussels – no-one is safe. Microplastics of up to 5mm are also found in bottled water”.

The health impacts of ingesting plastics are unclear but studies on fish have shown they inhibit hatching of fertilised eggs, stunt growth and make them more susceptible to predators, increasing mortality rates.

Microplastics absorb toxic chemicals from the marine environment, which are released into the bodies of fish and mammals who consume them. While many studies have shown the prevalence of microplastics in the world's oceans, where more than five trillion pieces of plastic are floating, it is the first time research has been conducted into our drinking water.


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