If you had a glass of water from the tap today, you likely ingested plastic. Orb Media conducted an investigation of plastic in our tap water over 10 months, and their results were shocking: over 80 percent of samples they collected – in places like the United States Capitol building or the shores of Uganda’s Lake Victoria – contained plastic fibers. The authors of the study say we’re living in the Plastic Age – and the contamination probably is not limited to our water.
Orb Media and a researcher from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health scrutinized plastic fibers in our tap water for the report, titled Invisibles, for what Orb Media described as the “first public scientific study of its kind.” Microplastics contaminating our water come from a variety of sources, from synthetic clothes to tire dust to microbeads to plastic utensils. According to Orb Media, “We have produced more plastic in the last 10 years than in the entirety of the last century.” They said experts said plastics are probably in your food too – like baby formula, sauces, or craft beer.
The research authors tested tap water in the United States, Europe, Indonesia, India, Lebanon, Uganda, and Ecuador. The United States had the greatest amount of plastics in their water at 94 percent of samples; the researchers detected the fibers at the Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters, Congress buildings, and Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next greatest amounts of contamination. Europe had the least – but plastics were still found in 72 percent of samples there.
It’s easy to blame waste management or sewage treatment systems. But one marine biology professor said designers have a role to play too. Associate Dean of Research at Plymouth University Richard Thompson told Orb Media, “Plastics are inherently recyclable. What’s preventing us from recycling I’d argue, is inadequate, inappropriate, or…lack of proper consideration on the design stage for what’s going to happen at the end of life.”
Senior Research Associate at the University of New South Wales Mark Browne said, “It’s all of our fault.”