Shock Study Finds Plastic Fibers In 83% Of Tap Water Samples Across 6 Continents

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Shock Study Finds Plastic Fibers In 83% Of Tap Water Samples Across 6 Continents
Photo – geraldsimon00 –

In a recent study conducted by Orb Media, researchers were shocked to find how much of our tap water was contaminated by plastic fibers. They collected samples all over the world, across six different continents, and found disturbing evidence that 83% of their samples contained remnants of plastic. These results not only place the supposed “safety” of our water sources under the spotlight, but also how big of an impact they have on public health. [1][2]

Orb Media is a non-profit organization that uses journalism and data analysis to focus on world’s most important issues, primarily food, water, energy, health, education, environment, trade, and governance – and how these eight categories affect the world as a whole. This recent publication (which gained popularity in mid-2017) is only one of their stories that focus the current state of the world we live in. [3]

The Plastic Inside Us

In 2017, Orb Media’s researchers collected water samples from more than a dozen nations across six continents all over the world. The investigation ran for over a span of ten months and they discovered very harrowing results that continue to have an impact on our health today. Exactly 83 percent of their samples were contaminated with plastic fibers – microplastics to be exact. Because plastic does not truly degrade, it merely gets broken up into smaller and smaller pieces. However, the smaller plastic gets, the harder it is to see and therefore control; this is very important because exposure and intake of plastic has been linked to cancer – and it is entering the food chaing. [1][2][4]

Where Do The Fibers Come From?

Researchers point out that our tap waters have been deemed “safe” because the contaminants in question – the plastic fibers – are too small to be seen with the naked eye or detected by typical filtration systems. So where does the plastic come from? These fibers come from everyday objects like clothes, upholstery, and even carpets – but the reality is, no one knows for sure. There are so many objects that are made of plastic or have plastic fibers as a byproduct so any of them could easily contaminate local water sources and reach your tap at home.

The impact of contaminated water is far reaching. Aside from water from the tap, bottled water from the store, baby formula, mass produced soups and sauces, and plenty of other products are most likely contaminated by plastic as well. Orb Media’s study also included samples from bottled water – and yes – they too were contaminated by plastic. These plastic fibers and particles are small enough to be absorbed by the body – which brings up links to cancer and other diseases. [4]

Orb Media has listed the following as the biggest contributors of plastic fibers: (1) Synthetic clothes (e.g. fleece, polyester), (2) Tire dust, (3) Paint, (4) Secondary microplastics (e.g. plastic cutlery, straws), (5) Synthetic fibers in the air (e.g. clothing fibers that float in the air), (6) microbeads (currently banned in the US and Canada but an estimated 8 trillion microbeads contaminated our waters back in 2015). One way clothing fibers end up in the air and water is by clothing rubbing against each other and tumble dryers venting into open air. Despite the filters, some escapes and on a global scale, this adds up. [1]

Orb Media’s study also found that the US had the highest “contamination rate” – 94 percent of tap water samples taken from sits like Congress buildings, the US Environmental Protection Agency buildings, and even Trump Tower in New York city. Lebanon and India were the next countries on the list that had the most contaminated waters. In Beirut, Lebanon, despite their water coming mostly from natural springs, their samples were still contaminated with plastic fibers.

What We Must Do

We really need to step it up here in a big way. This is a huge global problem. There are solutions: (1) eliminate our use of plastic and (2) dispose of the plastic we do have in ways that do not hurt our environment. If living plastic-free seems like a tall order (despite the fact that we did it for our entire evolution before the 20th century!), the second option is a must. Separation and repurposing of plastic items are some of the ways we can deal with the plastic currently polluting our lives. Raising awareness is also as important as actually doing something – you can write letters to people in your local community, your mayor, senator, and even companies who manufacture plastic in your town. Orb Media’s study is only one of many that raise public awareness on the dangers of plastic on your health – so read up!

Further Reading:

Plastic Bottles Are Slowly Killing You

Do You Know Which Plastics Have The Highest Cancer Risk?

3 Shocking Facts You Need To Know Before Reusing Plastic Water Bottles

How Long Until It’s Gone

Warning: If You Eat An Average Amount Of Fish, You Are Now Eating 11,000 Pieces Of Plastic Per Year


[1] Orb Media (2017). Invisibles.

[2] Carrington, D. (2017). Plastic fibres found in tap water around the world, study reveals.

[3] Orb Media. What We Do.

[4] Exposure to chemicals in plastic.

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