Plastic pollutionBy Elizabeth Zach, RCAC staff writer

Scientists have found microplastic contamination in drinking water systems around the world, with the United States having the highest levels of any country. Their research indicates that plastic fibers were found in tap water at the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters and even Trump Tower in New York.

The analyses show that microplastic contamination is not just in the oceans, which was previously thought.

“We have enough data from looking at wildlife, and the impacts that it’s having on wildlife, to be concerned,” Dr. Sherri Mason, a microplastic expert at the State University of New York in Fredonia, who supervised the analyses, told the Guardian newspaper. “If it’s impacting [wildlife], then how do we think that it’s not going to somehow impact us?”

In a related study, researchers concluded that very small plastic particles and the chemicals or pathogens they contain are cause for concern. According to Dr. Anne Marie Mahon at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, who led that research, “If the fibers are there, it is possible that the nanoparticles are there too that we can’t measure. Once they are in the nanometer range they can really penetrate a cell and that means they can penetrate organs, and that would be worrying.”

Microplastics can attract bacteria found in sewage, Mahon adding, “Some studies have shown there are more harmful pathogens on microplastics downstream of wastewater treatment plants.”

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