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Microplastics in Water: Should We Be Concerned?

In case you missed the bombshell study released by the University of Newcastle in Australia earlier this year, let us fill you in on some disturbing facts. There’s no easy way to say this — you’re eating plastic. That’s right, the same stuff used to make milk jugs and toothbrushes. You’re drinking, eating, and even breathing in small bits of plastic throughout each day.

According to the study, every human ingests an average of five grams of plastic per week, or roughly the size of a credit card. That’s a lot of plastic! When this information was released, the follow-up question was obvious — how harmful are microplastics to our health?

Where Are Microplastics Found?

Microplastics are exactly what they sound like — miniscule particles of plastic. There is no scientific consensus on what constitutes a microplastic, but most experts agree that microplastics are microscopic in size, generally smaller than five millimeters in diameter. Microplastics often form from larger pieces of plastic as they weather and degrade.

Microplastics are everywhere in the environment. They’ve been detected in all of the following:

  • Fresh water
  • Tap water
  • Bottled water
  • Marine water
  • Wastewater
  • Food
  • Air

You ingest microplastics while eating produce from the grocery store, or simply by taking a walk around your block and breathing in the air.

The reason microplastics are everywhere is fairly straightforward. The widespread demand for plastic manufacturing far outpaces efforts by conservation organizations to reduce the amount of plastic in the natural environment. 

How Are You Ingesting Microplastics?

You’re not likely to see or taste any amount of plastic when eating or drinking. Microplastics are so tiny they don’t aesthetically affect water or food, meaning microplastics can accumulate in your gut over time without you being aware of the issue.

Drinking water is the primary source of microplastics for humans. In fact, 94% of tap water in the United States is contaminated with plastic.

How Do Microplastics Affect Humans?

This is the ultimate question — are microplastics dangerous? What do we know about their potential side effects?

The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted the first in-depth analysis of the health effects of microplastics and recently released their findings. You can read the full report here. The WHO’s official position is that microplastics aren’t necessarily dangerous — until we learn that they are.

“Based on the limited information we have, microplastics in drinking water don’t appear to pose a health risk at current levels,” Dr. Maria Neira at the WHO said. “But we need to find out more. We also need to stop the rise in plastic pollution worldwide.”

The U.N. health organization urged that more research is needed to understand the impact of microplastics on human health, as there’s not currently enough data to confidently link microplastics to specific long-term effects.

Common concerns related to ingesting microplastics include immune system damage, inflammation, and contamination from mercury and pesticides. Plastics are believed to cause infertility in sea mammals.

Filter Your Water for Protection From Plastic

The WHO’s recommendations are clear — to avoid any potential health problems stemming from microplastics, outfit your home with an effective water filtration system. Almost 90% of the plastic particles you consume every week are found in your drinking water, meaning that you can practically eliminate your plastic exposure simply by filtering the water in your home.

“Opting for filters would aid in the removal of the microplastics,” notes Dr. Paul Harvey of Macquarie University. “It would also aid in the removal of other pollutants like heavy metals and pathogens.”

To keep your family safe consider investing in a comprehensive water treatment system that can filter out contaminants like pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and a portion of microplastics.

Passing your water through a semipermeable membrane and multiple filters will remove the vast majority of small particles present. Install an option like our 6-Stage Reverse Osmosis System in your kitchen to enjoy cleaner, safer, refreshing drinking water with a drastic reduction in microplastics content.