So far, we’ve discussed many water pollutants and how they can be removed from water including chlorine, VOCs, lead, fluoride, pesticides, herbicides, and many more. But there’s one pollutant that’s becoming equally troublesome — microplastics.
Where do microplastics come from? Some of the microplastics we find in nature come from cosmetic products, other microplastics are the direct result of plastic pollution, namely it’s plastic that breaks down into smaller pieces when exposed to the elements.
Do microplastics end up in water? Yes, unfortunately, they do, which raises the question of whether we can remove microplastics from water with the help of water filters.
In this article, we examine the extent of plastic pollution, the potential health impact of microplastics, and if microplastics can be removed from water.
Plastic Pollution By the Numbers
Plastic is lightweight, cheap, durable, sterile, and can be molded into any shape, but this convenience comes at a huge price:
Plastic takes forever to break down.
No, that is not an exaggeration. Plastic can take between 500-1000 years to break down. This means that plastic that we use during our lifetimes sticks around for many more generations long after we’re gone.
Since its invention (around 1907), it is estimated that we have produced 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic, of which only a mere 21% ending up recycled or burned with 79% of it still around.
Where? Some of it (around 8 million tons per year) ends up in our oceans, part of it in landfills. Seabirds and other aquatic animals are ingesting plastic every day. With stomachs full of indigestible plastic, many animals starve to death.
This is the plastic we can see. But what about microplastics? How do they impact our health and environment?
What are Microplastics?
Pieces of plastic smaller than 5 mm are considered microplastics. Plastic floating in our oceans is exposed to UV radiation and breaks down into smaller and smaller particles.
It’s estimated that there are 51 trillion of small plastic particles floating around in our oceans, where they are easily ingested by fish and other aquatic creatures.
Just to put things into perspective, plastic has been found in the digestive tracts of organisms living in the deepest trenches of the ocean.
Are marine creatures the only ones to ingest plastics? No. Humans are believed to ingest 250 g of microplastics each year.
Unfortunately, microplastics travel up the food chain ending up on our dinner plates. Microplastics have even been found in honey, beer, drinking water (bottled or tap), salt, etc.
So far, there is little science on the implications of microplastics ending up in our digestive tracts, but it’s safe to assume that microplastics are just as undesirable as other pollutants that make their way into our drinking water.
So, until science comes up with conclusive evidence on the effects of microplastics on human health, it’s best to reduce our intake of plastics however we can.
We can ban single-use plastics, switch from plastic bottles to glass, and seek out ways to remove microplastics from our drinking water.
Which brings us to our next point:
Can We Remove Microplastics From Water?
Even though we don’t yet know the health consequences of ingesting microplastics, it’s still better to be safe than sorry.
The good news is that some water filters can remove microplastics from water. Which filters? Technically all filters that have a small enough micron rating.
As we’ve mentioned microplastics are plastics particles that are smaller than 5 mm. Therefore, if you’re using a 25 micron filter, you can filter out microplastics than are larger than 0.025 mm. A 5 micron filter will filter down to 0.005 mm, and so on.
Therefore, the smaller the micron rating, the smaller the plastic particles that can be removed from water.
Some residential filters are capable of nano-filtration, which means they can filter out particles smaller than 0.001 micrometers, which will certainly target microplastics as well.
Which Filters Are Best For Removing Microplastics?
If you’re looking for a filter that can tackle microplastics in your tap water, here are some of the options you can consider:
Reverse Osmosis Filters
Some reverse osmosis systems are capable of filtering down to 0.001 microns, which will certainly put an end to your worries about microplastics in your tap water.
Besides microplastics, RO filters can remove a host of other contamination issues, because they’re multi-stage filters that combine multiple filter media to offer a more comprehensive water filtration.
Any Filters With Sub-Micron Filtration Capabilities
Whether you fancy using ceramic filters or carbon block filters, you should take into account their micron rating. The lower the micron rating, the better the filter is at removing small particles like microplastics
In our effort to find cheap and durable materials that we can use in everyday life, we have created something that has gotten out of control. It’s unclear whether we can still mitigate some of the unintended consequences of plastic.
But one thing is certain: We cannot go on producing and throwing out plastic at the rate we’ve been doing so far.
Until we know more about its effects on our health, it’s best if we reduce our use of plastics as much as possible and that means switching to non-polluting and biodegradable materials that aren’t dangerous for us or the environment.
If you’re worried about microplastics in your drinking water, here are some filters you can check out: