Now With Your Tap Water, a Side of Plastic

Researchers warn that we're ingesting microparticles
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2017 9:20 AM CDT
Now With Your Tap Water, a Side of Plastic
A crow drinks water from a tap on a hot day in Ahmadabad, India, Monday, April 25, 2016.   (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

Perhaps we'd best hope we are what we eat, because if we are what we drink then we are getting pretty plastic. Researchers who tested samples of tap water from around the world say there are microplastics in much of it, with the highest contamination rate in the US, reports Some 94% of samples taken from places like Congress and Trump Tower tested positive, while globally speaking, 84% of samples contained plastics. Lebanon and India follow the US, while countries in Europe have the lowest contamination, though it is still above 70%. "We have enough data from looking at wildlife, and the impacts that it’s having on wildlife, to be concerned," a microplastic expert in New York tells the Guardian. "If it’s impacting [wildlife], then how do we think that it’s not going to somehow impact us?"

Microplastics are defined as being shorter than 5mm long, which is roughly the length of a sesame seed. Sometimes they are produced as micro beads in toothpaste and scrubs, but they also result from degrading plastic waste and have been found all over the world in everything from fish, honey, and beer to the very air we breathe—both indoors and outdoors. Americans who drink six pints (about 96 ounces) a day could be ingesting 4,000 plastic particles a year; shellfish consumers, meanwhile, could be ingesting 11,000 a year from just that source, per Though the precise harm to our bodies remains unknown, concerns include the microplastics themselves, as well as the fact that they absorb a range of harmful bacteria found in, say, sewage. (Microplastics appear to make fish less intelligent.)

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