Plastic fibres found in tap water supply

Plastic fibres have been found in tap water around the world, including Ireland, it has emerged.

Plastic fibres found in tap water supply

The US had the highest contamination rate, at 94%, and Lebanon and India had the next highest rates.

European countries including Ireland, the UK, Germany and France had the lowest contamination rate, but it was still high, at 72%.

The research was conducted by scientists for an investigation by Orb Media, a non-profit news media outlet based in the US.

Five separate samples supplied by an Irish newspaper were also analysed, and all were found to be contaminated but did not form part of the global survey.

Experts at Orb Media collected tap water samples from more than a dozen countries for the study that has raised fears that human health may be at risk.

The study was overseen by Dr Sherri Mason, a micro plastic expert at the State University of New York.

“We have enough data from looking at wildlife and the impacts that it’s having on wildlife, to be concerned. If it’s impacting them, then how do we think that it’s not going to somehow impact us?”

Irish Water said it supports a proposed legislative ban on products containing plastic microbeads in Ireland.

“Conventional wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to filter out or remove microbead/microplastics so Irish Water’s preferred approach is to control microbead/microplastic pollution at source,” it stated.

Microbeads are found in some cosmetics, body care products, toothpaste, scouring agents and detergents.

“Irish Water would welcome any initiative in principle that would reduce contamination in wastewater,” the water utility company added.

The Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government launched a six-week public consultation on a proposal to ban microbeads in February.

A study published by the Environmental Protection Agency in June found microplastics could pass through a public water supply filtration system.

Currently, there are no regulations concerning the levels of microplastics in fresh waters, despite a significant abundance of microplastics in several freshwater systems.

EPA senior inspector, Darragh Page, said all of Ireland’s drinking water standards come from the 1998 EU Drinking Water Directive, but there were no standards for plastics.

“There are ongoing discussions about revising the directive, but the issue of including a standard for microplastics hasn’t come up yet,” he said.

Wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to filter out or remove microplastics so these non-biodegradable micro-particles can end up in rivers and oceans, potentially entering the food chain.

The EPA research was conducted by Anne Mahon at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, who said the health risks, which was still unknown, should be investigated.

EPA research manager Alice Wemaere said the agency was funding two additional research projects that would further investigate and provide the evidence of the impacts of microplastics in the freshwater environment.

The EPA has said waste management regulation and enforcement may be necessary if microplastic pollution is deemed to be a risk to human health and freshwater species.

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