Tiny Particles of Plastic in Your Drinking
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September 7, 2017

By Susan Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of Registered
Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members of our Editorial

If you're drinking water from a tap in the United States,
chances are you've just drunk a load of micro-plastic. This
is the finding from a study released this week from Orb
Media and the University of Minnesota. Why should you
care that your water contains tiny bits of plastic? There are
plenty of good reasons, some of them alarming. What are
the health dangers of micro-plastics in drinking water?

The Long, Curious Journey of Plastics

Plastics start their journey into our water from many
sources. You use plastic bags to carry food from the
grocery store. Your clothes are made of synthetics that use
plastic. Your makeup may contain micro-particles of plastic.
Even your toothpaste may contain micro-particles  of
plastic put their to make the paste more gritty.

From where they start, plastics journey down the drains in
our bathrooms and kitchens into sewage water, where in
developed societies, they then ride along with the water in
treatment plants to be purified before they, along with the
"purified" water, are returned to the oceans. At least, that's
how it's supposed to happen.

Some plastics enter the oceans directly. They are dumped
there by people at the beach. Or, they are dumped into
rivers by unscrupulous manufacturers, landfill operators.

Plastics are now so ubiquitous that eliminating them would
be near impossible.  But it's worth a try. It's worth a hard

The Study on Microplastics in Water

A team of scientists went around the world collecting water
samples. In the US, they collected samples from the
buildings including headquarters of the Environmental
Protection Agency (setting up a world-class Irony Alert),
the offices of Congress and the building hosing the
President's unofficial home, Trump Towers in New York.  
They found that 94.4% of water samples from these sites
contained some amounts of micro-plastic fibers.  

The average number of individual fibers per sample was 4.8.

In other parts of the world, here is what they found:

Country          Percentage of Water Contaminated by Plastic
US                        94.4

Lebanon               93.8

India                    82.4

Uganda                80.8

Ecuador               79.2

Indonesia            76.2

Europe                 72.2

How Big Are the Microplastics in Water?

The fibers caught were 2500 nanometers. To show you
how small that is, you can fit about 400 of these 2500-
sized nanometers across the width of a human hair.

Though this may seem small to you, actually it is still pretty
large in terms of the size that cause the most trouble for
your health. When particles get down to the single
nanometer size, they are small enough to slip into individual
cells and wreak havoc with your organs and immune
system. Still, we don't know all the damage that particles as
"large" as the 2500 nanometer plastic bits can do in your

These Plastic Particles Are Also in Your Beer and May Be in
Your Sodas

The plastic particles are also showing p in your beer, which
means that may also be showing up in anything you drink
such as soft drinks, wine and other liquor. Think about it.
It's not as though all of these manufacturers have
alternative sources of water. Maybe some draw only from a
secret especially pure source of water from a faraway,
pristine stream but how likely is that?

In 2014, scientists from Germany tested 24 German beer
brands to screen for microplastic fibers as well as
fragments and granular material. The study, led by Ger
Liebzeit of the Marine and Environmental Chemistry
research firm  called "MarChemConsult" found plastic fibers
in all 24 brands of beer. In each beer, they found between
2 to 79 plastic fibers, 12 to 109 plastic fragments and 2 to
66 plastic granules.

And They Are Found in Your Fish

These tiny plastic particles are being swallowed by fish in
the oceans, shortening their lives, according to a 2015
report published in the Journal of Aquatic Food Product
Technology by Torger Borreson.

Some of the fish that survive long enough are harvested by
commercial fisheries, enter the food chain, and land on
your dinner table. It's highly likely that, if you are eating
fish --- as you should to help fight heart disease --- you are
also eating plastic.

So What Are the Health Dangers of Drinking Tiny Plastic

Plastic is a wonderful material. It's resistant to water and
stretches. But plastic is also not biodegradable.

Some health authorities worry that the bits of plastic we
are drinking or eating will do to us what they have done to
fish --- shorten our lives. Professor John Kelly of King's
College London, believes that these microplastic particles, if
they manage to enter our circulatory system, could end up
at the bottom of our lungs.

There are no academic studies that today support
Professor Kelly's warnings. The particles which have been
isolated in drinking water and beer are too large to cross
into out circulation system -- we think.

But as these particles get smaller and smaller, as they are
beaten by the waves of the ocean, they may one day reach
the size where they can slip into our cells and do
substantial organ damage.

Once they enter the cells, they can increase rates of cancer.
We know this from studies of burst bags of silicone used in
breast implants. In 2011, the Us Food and Drug
Administration connected the dots between silicone breast
implants and a type of cancer called "large cell lymphoma":

As they stated: "Since 2011, we have strengthened our
understanding of this condition and concur with the World
Health Organization designation of breast implant-
associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) as a
rare T-cell lymphoma that can develop following breast

Plastics may be wonderful as a tool of manufacturing but
they are not supposed to be in our bodies. Our naturally
protective immune systems react to them as invaders, as

Ironic, isn't it? When people think of our capacity to end
life on our planet, they envision a mushroom cloud from a
nuclear blast. But could it be that the end of our species as
we know it will come not from a nuclear mushroom cloud
but from the clear plastic used to wrap our mushrooms?


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Plastic is ending up in our drinking water.