|Photo Credit: Jean-Pierre Desforges, Vancouver Aquarium|
"Microplastics — tiny plastic fibers and fragments — aren’t just choking the ocean; they have infested the world’s drinking water." -Orb MediaOrb Media, a journalist organization focused on global issues, funded a scientific study to determine how much public drinking water was contaminated with microplastics. They found that 94% of US drinking water has microplastics in it, and 83% of water around the globe is contaminated as well.
Microplastics are extremely small pieces of plastic debris in the environment resulting from the disposal and breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste. The danger they produce is unknown, but if the chemicals inside the microplastics, or the nano sized particles that may break off of them, get near or inside our digestive cell membranes, it can lead to disfunction and disease of organs. As a result, limiting intake of microplastics is wise until more research is performed.
There has been research of ocean fish, and how much microplastics are consumed via eating fish caught in the ocean, however it seems we now need to broaden our imagination when understanding this environmental health problem. Microplastics can also attract bacteria, and absorb chemicals, that are released when it enters your digestive tract. Microplastics have been found in high concentration in the air we breathe as well.
Scientists in Germany determined that many brands of beer contain fibers and fragments of plastic, and French scientist discovered that up to ten tons of fibers float around the air of the city of Paris each year.
A major source of microplastics are industrial waste, and the clothes we clean. When you wash clothes with microplastic fibers in them, the fibers break off and are swept away to the ocean or to a water treatment plant. Tumble dryers emit fibers through exhaust vents as well. One wash cycle can produce up to 700,000 fibers that are released into the environment. If you are concerned about your personal impact, you can purchased a lint filter that attaches to the waste water hose of your washing machine.
To filter out microplastics in drinking water you need a filter capable of 10 micron size filtration which is unusual. Brita filters do not have micron ratings, so you will need something better than that. Aquagear makes a water filter pitcher with 2 micron size pores. They claim they remove 2000% more contaminates than Brita a well.
Right now I am using a distiller, and a Brita fiter, to make clean drinking water. However, I have noticed every time I open up the distiller I see this dense sludge at the bottom. I suspect some of it may be microplastics. I am going to product test the Aquagear pitcher and report on my findings. My plan is to use the aquagear to filter the water before it is boiled in the distiller.
Update 9/12/17: Using a microscope I took a sample of water from my tap water and compared it to the water that came out of the distiller after the aquagear filter and distiller filtered it. There was much less particulate floating in the filtered sample, but at 40x I couldn't find any thing that was clearly a microplastic in either sample. The particulate floating was a translucent like material that was extremely thin and small. It is possible that it was microplastic that was broken down. Either that, or mineral that is normally found in water. However, the process of distilling should remove all mineral. I may post video and pictures later of the slides.
Here's some pictures from the new filter packaging.