Plastic particles found in tap water worldwide

People around the world may be consuming up to 4,000 microparticles of plastic from tap water every year, a groundbreaking study based on samples from 14 countries has revealed.

The survey analyzed 159 tap water samples and found 83 per cent of them to contain plastic particles.

While the health risks are unknown, previous studies have shown that plastic particles can absorb and release potentially harmful chemicals and bacteria.

The study, which was conducted by researchers from the University of Minnesota and the State University of New York, is the first global scientific study on the prevalence of microplastics in drinking water.

Much research has looked at plastic pollution in the environment and the air we breathe, but less attention has been paid to its presence in human consumables, according to the researchers.

Samples were collected in Uganda, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Ecuador, the United States and Europe. They were then lab tested at the University of Minnesota.

The majority of particles found were fibres ranging from 0.1 to five millimetres in length. There was an average of 4.34 particles per litre of water, with the highest density per volume of tap water found in North America.

A man may consume as many as 14 plastic particles daily, and a woman,10, if their chosen beverages were tap water or made with tap water, explained the authors. This equates to an annual total of over 4,000 for men and 3,000 for women.

Micro-plastics are about the size of a sesame seed. They are used in scrubs and toothpaste, and can also be created when larger pieces of plastic degrade.

Photo credit: akamerpreet/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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