The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
You're Probably Drinking Plastic in Your Tap Water
We know that plastics clog our oceans, lakes and the stomachs of marine animals, but a first-of-its-kind investigation from Orb Media found the pervasive material in tap water supplies around the world, too.
Orb, a digital media nonprofit, worked with researchers at the State University of New York and the University of Minnesota and analyzed 159 drinking water samples across five continents over a ten-month period. The results indicated that plastics are just about everywhere—83 percent of the samples tested positive for the presence of tiny plastic particles, aka microplastics.
"Microscopic plastic fibers are flowing out of taps from New York to New Delhi," the study states. "From the halls of the U.S. Capitol to the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda, women, children, men, and babies are consuming plastic with every glass of water."
The U.S. tied with Beirut, Lebanon for the highest plastic fiber contamination rates, at 94 percent. U.S. samples were collected from 33 sites, including the U.S. Capitol complex, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington, D.C. and the Trump Grill in New York.
Notably, an EPA spokeswoman told PRI that the U.S. doesn't have a safety standard for plastic in drinking water, nor are plastics on the agency's Contaminant Candidate List of unregulated substances that are known to appear in tap water.
European nations including France, Germany and the UK tested lowest for contamination, but were still at 72 percent.
The Orb research points out that people are surely consuming these non-biodegradable pollutants in our water and food, and calls on scientists to study what eating plastic could mean for human health.
Previous research shows that plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body—93 percent of Americans age six or older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical). Some compounds in plastic have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.
Earlier studies have revealed how microplastics are pervasive in the environment. Microfibers come from many sources, including synthetic fabrics like polyester, rayon and nylon, which can release up to 700,000 fibers per wash load, researchers at Plymouth University found. A 2011 study found that microplastics make up 85 percent of human made debris on shorelines across the globe. A recent study published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin found that the Hudson River in New York is thoroughly contaminated with the material, and could be sending about 300 million clothing fibers into the Atlantic Ocean each day.
"This should knock us into our senses," Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and founder of Grameen Bank, said about the Orb investigation. "We knew that this plastic is coming back to us through our food chain. Now we see it is coming back to us through our drinking water. Do we have a way out?"
"Since the problem of plastic was created exclusively by human beings through our indifference, it can be solved by human beings by paying attention to it," Yunus added. "Now what we need is a determination to get it done—before it gets us."
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Judge Blocks Oil and Gas Drilling on 300,000 Acres in Wyoming Until Government Considers Climate Impacts
Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.