Plastic, once regarded as convenient and versatile, has become one of the biggest environmental problems of our time. It’s easy to see the extent of the contamination when you visit the oceanside. Even the most remote beaches are often littered with plastic debris. Now, new evidence reveals the problem of plastic pollution hits much closer to home. Microplastics, invisible to the human eye, are present in our drinking water, and as a result, are polluting our bodies.
An investigation commissioned by Orb Media revealed that microplastics were present in 83 percent of drinking water samples. The study encompassed more than a dozen countries, including the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Lebanon, Indonesia, Equator, and India.
When comparing contamination rates, the U.S. had the highest rate at 94 percent. This means that researchers found plastic fibers in 94 percent of the water samples collected at dozens of locations around the country.
Startlingly, each country in the analysis had a contamination rate of more than 70 percent.
Dr. Sherri Mason is a microplastic expert at the State University of New York in Fredonia. She supervised the analyses for Orb. Dr. Mason stated in an interview with The Guardian:
We have enough data from looking at wildlife, and the impacts that it’s having on wildlife, to be concerned. If it’s impacting [wildlife], then how do we think that it’s not going to somehow impact us?
Dr. Anne Marie Mahon at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology conducted a smaller study in Ireland. She also discovered microplastic contamination in tap water and well water samples. Dr. Mahon stated:
If the fibers are there, it is possible that the nanoparticles are there too that we can’t measure. Once they are in the nanometer range they can really penetrate a cell and that means they can penetrate organs, and that would be worrying.
Dr. Mason and Dr. Mahon join many others who believe there is an urgent need to study the consequences of microplastics and their inherent toxicity. What we do know is that microplastics can absorb pathogens and toxic chemicals. Furthermore, animal research illustrates that plastic easily releases these substances into animal tissues.
Why is the Planet So Contaminated with Plastic?
We all know that it is important to recycle plastic because it is not biodegradable. This means that plastic may break down into smaller pieces, but the natural environment does not absorb it. Instead, tiny plastic fibers just float around the different ecosystems of the planet.
For most Westerners, it appears we are effective at recycling. Only a very small percentage of plastic is recycled. Here are some statistics from Science Advances:
We estimate that 8300 million metric tons (Mt) as of virgin plastics have been produced to date. As of 2015, approximately 6300 Mt of plastic waste had been generated, around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050.
Awareness is the Greatest Agent for Change
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless when realizing the magnitude of the problem. Without knowledge, we would continue to consume plastic like a problem doesn’t exist. As in the words of Eckhart Tolle, “Awareness is the greatest agent for change.”
We can all participate in making a difference. This includes buying less plastic and switching to reusable and biodegradable products. There are so many eco-friendly options now, from biodegradable plastic bags to disposable cutlery, and even toothbrushes. You have a choice to support these types of eco-friendly companies, just as we support organic farmers and sustainable food producers.
Science will continue to attest to the need for bigger changes in our industries and regulations. Our part is to establish better consumption habits by making smaller changes in our lives.
About the Author
Anna Hunt is a writer, yoga instructor, mother of three, and lover of healthy food. She’s the founder of Awareness Junkie, an online community paving the way for better health and personal transformation. She’s also the co-editor at Waking Times, where she writes about optimal health and wellness. Anna spent six years in Costa Rica as a teacher of Hatha and therapeutic yoga. She now teaches at Asheville Yoga Center and is pursuing her Yoga Therapy certification. During her free time, you’ll find her on the mat or in the kitchen, creating new kid-friendly superfood recipes.
This article (Most of Us Are Ingesting Plastic Fibers Without Even Realizing It) was created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Anna Hunt and WakingTimes.com.
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