Fact Sheet: Microplastics and Drinking Water | Earth Day Network


Fact Sheet: Microplastics and Drinking Water

The billions upon billions of items of plastic waste choking our oceans, lakes, and rivers and piling up on land is more than unsightly and harmful to plants and wildlife. Plastic Pollution is a very real and growing threat to human health.

The following 10 facts shed light on how plastic is proving dangerous to human health.  To learn more about the threat and impact of plastic pollution and get tips to reduce your plastic consumption, download our Plastic Pollution Primer and Toolkit today!

FACT #1 Microplastics[1] in different forms are present in almost all water systems in the world, be they streams, rivers, lakes, or oceans.[2]
FACT #2 According to a study conducted by Orb Media on plastics and tap water, 83% of tested water samples from major metropolitan areas around the world were contaminated with plastic fibers.[3]
FACT #3 Plastic fibers were also found in bottled water produced by 11 of the world’s largest brands purchased from 19 locations in 9 countries. 93% of bottled water showed some sign of microplastic contamination, including polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).[4]
FACT #4 Each year, about 1 million tons of tiny plastic fibers are released into wastewater.[5]
FACT #5 There are no regulatory limits on the levels of microplastics in bottled water.[6]
FACT #6 In 2015, the US passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act, banning plastic microbeads[7] in cosmetics and personal care products sold in the United States.
FACT #7 Microfibers from synthetic fibers have been shown to make up the majority of human material found along the worlds shorelines, accounting for up to as much as 85% of the total.[8]
FACT #8 A single fleece jacket sheds up to 250,000 microfibers during a single wash.[9]
FACT #9 Studies have shown that as much as 10% of oceanic microplastic pollution originates from paint that becomes dust. This plastic dust has been observed to coat the ocean surface. [10]


FACT #10 Microplastics can also come from car tires. Plastic dust is created by the friction between the wheels and the road and is blown into waterways by the wind. Car tires shed 20 grams of plastic dust every 100 kilometers.[11]

[1] Some microplastics start out as large plastic pieces, slowly eroded by water or exposure to the sun and the elements; others start off as microplastics specifically produced for certain uses. The first example of this is microbeads, which are created mostly for use in cosmetic and hygiene products. They are very tiny pieces of manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added as exfoliants to health and beauty products, such as some cleansers, toothpaste, facewash, soap and shower cream.  Others originate from plastic-based fabrics such as polyester and nylon that shed plastic fibers when washed. Several studies have shown synthetic fibers to make up the lion’s share of microplastics found in oceans, rivers, and lakes, and clothes made from synthetics (polyester, acrylic, nylon, and so on) are widely implicated as the source of that pollution. Microplastics also originate from the dust tires leave on roads due to friction. Flakes of paint can also peel off boats and ships at shipyards and marinas in lakes, rivers and the ocean.

[2] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/earth/freshwater-microplastics/

[3] https://orbmedia.org/stories/Invisibles_plastics

[4] https://orbmedia.org/sites/default/files/FinalBottledWaterReport.pdf

[5] https://orbmedia.org/stories/Invisibles_plastics

[6] http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-43388870

[7] Microbeads are very tiny pieces of manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added as exfoliants to health and beauty products, such as some cleansers, toothpaste, facewash, soap and shower cream.

[8] https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/oct/27/toxic-plastic-synthetic-microscopic-oceans-microbeads-microfibers-food-chain

[9] https://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/plastic-microfibers-recent-findings-and-potential-solutions

[10] https://orbmedia.org/stories/Invisibles_plastics

[11] http://www.miljodirektoratet.no/no/Nyheter/Nyheter/2015/Mars-2015/Vi-fyller-havet-med-mikroplast/