Microplastic has found its entry in tap water in countries across the world. A new study has revealed the shocking fact that 82% of water samples surveyed in New Delhi are contaminated with particles smaller than 5 millimetres in size. The investigation conducted by Orb Media said that microplastics are said to absorb toxic chemicals which cause illnesses. The appalling reality of water supply in the National Capital Region has raised several health concerns.
“Scientists say these microscopic fibers might originate in the everyday abrasion of clothes, upholstery, and carpets. They could reach your household tap by contaminating local water sources, or treatment and distribution systems. But no one knows, and no specific procedures yet exist for filtering or containing them,” the investigation, based on the final report published on May 16, said.
Governments of the countries lack any standards to decide safe threshold for plastic in water and food, the report says. “The first studies into the health effects of microscopic plastics on humans are only just now beginning,” it said
Delhi Jal Board CEO Keshav Chandra said there is no valid research to explain the impact of microplastic on human body. “There are hardly few studies yet on this source. There are 90 parameters, which have been issued by the World Health Organization, for which water is checked by us. It doesn’t mention microplastic yet. Gradually, as we realise the impact, the WHO will issue parameters for this and then all water utilities will follow it,” he told Hindustan Times.
Surprisingly, a developed nation like United States has the highest contamination rate of 94% according to the study. Lebanon and India have the next highest rates of microplastic. European countries like France, Germany and UK have the lowest contamination rate of 72%.
In India, more than 130 million people still rely on groundwater supplies which are contaminated, according to the World Resources Institute. More than 20 million people live in areas where water supplies contain at least three pollutants exceeding the safe limits, the analysis shows.
Adventure Scientists, a nonprofit based in the US reveals that microplastic has a significant environment risk when it enters our water bodies. Microplastic find their ways into water bodies by several means- they’re washed off from nylon clothing, they’re found in many cosmetics and toothpaste and they also weather from debris like bottles and bags.
According to a 2014 study published in a Public Library of Science journal, there are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic present in the world’s oceans. Occurrence of microplastic in water indicate that they are found in kitchens and groceries as well. “Plastic fibers may leaven your pizza crust, and a forthcoming study says it’s likely in the craft beer you’ll drink to chase the pepperoni down,” the Orb Media report says.
To make the matter worse, this plastic is non-biodegradable. “...it only breaks down into smaller pieces of itself, even down to particles in nanometer scale — one-one thousandth of one-one thousandth of a millimeter. Studies show particles of that size can migrate through the intestinal wall and travel to the lymph nodes and other bodily organs.”
Marine Experts stresses on the fact that there could be more plastic than fishes in the ocean by 2050 by weight, revealed a factsheet by a UK-based charity, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Researcher Mary Kosuth said about the Orb Media investigation’s laboratory process: “Since this is the first global tap water survey of plastic pollution to have been completed, the results of this study serve as an initial glimpse at the consequences of human plastic use [and] disposal rather than a comprehensive assessment of global plastic contamination.. These results call for further testing within and between regions.”
50% of the water samples worldwide were from tap water participants used for drinking. The other 50% came from tap water residents considered unfit to drink directly from the tap.
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