Plastic is one of, if not the most useful and convenient materials we use today. You can spot it everywhere, and it's an integral part of modern life. But now the world is full of it, and the latest study reveals it's even in our drinking water.
The problem with plastic is, it doesn't degrade it just gets smaller. A piece of plastic becomes bits of microplastic, and those bits can keep breaking apart until they are particles so small we can't see them anymore. But they are still there, and now we are unknowingly drinking them.
Orb Media carried out an investigation into how prevalent plastics are in drinking water around the world. Tap water samples were collected from around the world and then analysed to see if any of them contained plastic fibers. The results are quite staggering.
Worldwide, 83 percent of the samples contained microscopic plastic fibers. The US and Lebanon topped the charts with 94 percent of the water samples containing plastic. Plastic was also discovered in three leading brands of bottled water sold in the US. The results from elsewhere weren't much better, with Europe fairing best, but still having 72 percent of samples containing plastic.
This isn't simply a recycling problem. Orb's study points to plastic fibers being released whenever we wash synthetic clothing. Every time we drive our cars the tires produce styrene butadiene plastic dust which flows into sewers. Many paints contain plastic, and as they breakdown also turn into plastic dust. And then there's one of the most well-known plastic contaminants: microbeads used in cosmetics and facial cleaners.
- New Recycling Process Turns Waste Plastic Into Oil New Recycling Process Turns Waste Plastic Into Oil
So what does this already high level of water contamination mean? Nobody knows yet, because we've never really asked what the risks are of using plastic so abundantly. What we do know is that plastic can take in other pollutants, and therefore any plastic consumed also means those contaminants are consumed. As one of Orb's videos points out, some are now asking "is plastic the new asbestos?"
The solution to this problem is unclear, but it will involve everyone from governments to industry to individuals acting responsibly. Recycle responsibly, choose non-plastic products where possible, and you're doing your bit. But we also need new synthetic materials that don't shed plastic fibers or dust, and a new way to deal with plastic waste on a massive scale that also manages to encourage 100 percent recycling.