I don’t drink enough water. Chances are good that you don’t, either. Every now and then, I feel bad about my poor hydration habits and crush a few gallons over the course of a couple of hours. Then I feel sick and have to pee every 10 minutes for the rest of the day, which is annoying. Better to just never drink water, that’s what I say. And now I have an excuse to never drink water: a new study found that billions of people are drinking water laced with plastic microfibers. Take that, all you hydrated assholes!
A team from Orb Media analyzed over 150 different water samples from 14 countries on five different continents. Overall, a staggering 83% of their samples came back with traces of microplastics–which, while there isn’t all that much research on what adverse effects they might have on us when we drink them, can’t be good.
Of all the countries, the US was the worst. Ninety-four percent of the samples, which were taken from a wide variety of sources (according to IFLScience, tap water from the “Congress building, the EPA headquarters, and even Trump Towers”) were found to have plastic in them.
The founder of Orb Media, Molly Bingham, is a little worried. “Scientists say they don’t really know how these microplastics reach our taps or what the health risks might be,” she explained in a statement. “But microplastics have been shown to absorb toxic chemicals from the marine environment, and then release them when consumed by fish and mammals. I am concerned by the implications of our research.”
So where are all these tiny bits of plastic coming from? Well, lots of places. You may remember that Boyan Slat, a shaggy-haired Dutch boy genius who probably drinks plenty of water because he’s smart, is launching his ocean cleanup project in the very near future. While the project does have its detractors–who, by the way, aren’t doing anything except loudly detracting from their plastic soapboxes–it’s much better than sitting around with a thumb up your ass whining about a shaggy-haired boy genius actually trying something. Slat’s Ocean Cleanup project, however, won’t be able to filter out the microplastics since they’re so… micro. They come from all over the place: the clothes you wash, the rubber you burn off your tires that washes into the ocean, and, according to the NOAA, little things called microbeads, which are tiny pieces of “manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added as exfoliants to health and beauty products, such as some cleansers and kinds of toothpaste.”
Since the analyses found that we’ve basically inundated our water with plastic and, unless we’re stupid, we know that ingesting plastic is bad, it seems obvious that something should be done, and done quickly. Here’s the scary part, though: there really isn’t much that can be done. Microplastics are classified as any piece of plastic smaller than 5 mm (which is 13/64 of an inch for all you American folks with your crazy imperial system that makes NO SENSE) and they are absolutely everywhere. They’re in the seafood we eat. They’re suspended just under the surface of the ocean. They’re on the seafloor. And now, they’re in our drinking water.
“We have enough data from looking at wildlife, and the impacts that it’s having on wildlife, to be concerned,” said Dr Sherri Mason, a microplastic expert at the State University of New York in Fredonia, who supervised the analyses for Orb. “If it’s impacting [wildlife], then how do we think that it’s not going to somehow impact us?”