Microplastic pollution has left its mark almost everywhere on this planet in current times. New studies found it in groundwater in the US, in the lakes and rivers of the UK, along the coast of Spain and China’s Yangtze River.
The potential health effects on people and ecosystems of the tiny plastic particles that we consume through food and water are still to be determined. A study in Singapore disclosed that microplastics could harbor harmful microbes.
The microplastic pollution found in all the rivers, 10 lakes, and reservoirs in the UK sampled for the new analysis. River Tame, near Manchester, was the most contaminated place yet tested in the whole world found with 1,000 and more small pieces of plastic in every liter as revealed last year. The remote locations even found containing two or three pieces per liter like the Falls of Dochart and Loch Lomond in Scotland.
“It was startling. I wasn’t expecting to find as much as we did,” said Christian Dunn at Bangor University, Wales, who led the study. “It is quite depressing they were there in some of our country’s most iconic locations. I’m sure Wordsworth would not be happy to discover his beloved Ullswater in the Lake District was polluted with plastic.”
“Microplastics are being found absolutely everywhere [but] we do not know the dangers they could be posing. It’s no use looking back in 20 years time and saying: ‘If only we’d realised just how bad it was.’ We need to be monitoring our waters now and we need to think, as a country and a world, how we can be reducing our reliance on plastic.”
In London, about 80 microplastic particles per liter found in the River Thames and also in the River Cegin in North Wales. The Blackwater River in Essex and Ullswater contains 15 and 30 respectively while the Llyn Cefni reservoir on Anglesey has 40.
In a recent UK survey, the study of every marine mammal came up with microplastics inside as mistaken for food and therefore, harming the marine life. In 2017 they were discovered in the tap water worldwide, and last October found them consumed by the public in Europe, Japan, and Russia.
Microplastic has been found in our rivers, our highest mountains and our deepest oceans
said Julian Kirby, a plastics campaigner at Friends of the Earth who helped in collection of water samples for the new UK study urging MPs to back legislation “to drastically reduce the flow of plastic pollution that’s blighting our environment”.
The National University of Singapore researched on 275 pieces of microplastic collected from local beaches and found bacteria of more than 400 types out of which some are toxic to humans. The bugs so detected are causing gastroenteritis (Arcobacter) and wound infections in humans(Vibrio) and even connected to coral reefs bleaching (Photobacterium rosenbergii).
Microplastics, smaller than 5mm in size, was found in underground limestone aquifers in Illinois in the US at 15 particles per liter level. It is a groundwater source that supplies nearly a quarter of the drinking water of the whole world.
In other current studies, the samples taken from the North Sea and the Barents Sea found microplastics in bottom-living creatures and sediments. Higher concentrations of these particles were detected in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and along the Mediterranean coast of Spain.
The vehicle tires, synthetic clothing, and the spillage of plastic pellets used by manufacturers shed microplastics, and they also get created from the physical breakdown of plastic litter. These are carried into rivers and the sea by rainwater and end up in fields through fertilizer from treated sewage waste blown by the wind.
Kirsten Thompson from the University of Exeter, who is working with Greenpeace on a survey of microplastics in the UK’s major rivers, said: “We hope our research will help uncover exactly where this plastic is coming from and what impact it may be having.”