Orb media has just released the results of their research on the contamination of plastic fibers in tap water. The research was conducted in various representative countries from five continents. As a result, researchers from Orb say about 83% of tap water worldwide is contaminated with plastics fiber material. That means every each 500ml water there are 4.34 microplastic particles that are likely to be consumed by humans either directly or indirectly.
What is Fiber Plastics (Microplastics)?
Microplastic is a particle which no larger than 1-5mm which is derived from the waste of non-decomposing plastic waste or it could be from a former cosmetic. The other means, microplastic is a degradable material into a smaller size that can not even being seen with the visible itself. Most of microplastic found (99.7 percent) measuring 0.1 to 5 millimeters. That means the size can be smaller than a hair tick (Pulex irritans) or Sagitta setosa plankton. Apart from plastic waste, microplastic can also arise from the synthetic fiber fragments contained in clothing materials.
According to Mark Bowner, an expert on Environmental studies, one of the main factor of microplastic spreading is the washing machine waste water. More than 1,900 plastic fibers apart from one garment during washing process. The Guardian released, every year as much as 300 million tons of plastic is produced worldwide and only 20% of that amount is recycled.
Indonesia is one of many countries affected by Microplastic
The research that conducted by Orb Media has taken 159 samples from eight regions on five continents. The region consists of the United States (36 samples), Cuba (1 sample), Quito, Ecuador (24 samples), Europe (18 samples), Beirut, Lebanon (16 samples), Jakarta, Indonesia (21 Samples), India (17 Samples), Uganda (26 samples). Of the 159 tap water samples taken from the five countries, 83 percent of them contain microscopic plastic particle fibers (microplastic).
United States is at the highest position of water pollution by plastic fibers with 94% of 36 samples. Meanwhile, the area of Europe into the area of contamination level of plastic fibers in the lowest contaminations rate, but this was still 72 percent from 18 samples. While Indonesia is little bit worse than Europe with contamination rate of 72% of 21 samples taken from various regions in arround Jakarta. It means, from every 500ml water in Jabodetabek can be found 1.9 millimeter plastic fiber inside. The possibility of plastic fibers found in Indonesia, especially Jabodetabek is produced from waste water from laundry washing machine households (Brown, 2008). This is corroborated by the research results of the Plymouth University environmental ecology team which says that every home-based washing machine that operates can release 700,000 plastic fiber particles from one garment to our environment.
The Impact of Microplastic Fiber on Humans
Before to researching tap water, Orb Media first conducted research on microplastic impacts in the oceans. As a result, many of the marine biota are forced to consume plastic fibers because the sea water is contaminated in it. So, did not rule out humans also consume seafood that has been contaminated. Richard Thompson, a marine biologist from Plymouth University, thinks it could be microplastic carrying toxic chemicals to the body.
“Many studies in wildlife, that microplastic release of chemical compounds in the body, and did not close the possibility to channel the element to all parts of the digestion,” said Thompson. Given the origin of microplastic is from waste, so there is the possibility that it can absorb into the human body and provide long-term impact on the metabolism and digestive system in the body.
Plastic material is one material that will not be digested by the environment in a short time. In fact, of the 300 million tons of plastics produced each year, nearly 40% is used disposable in less than a minute and then thrown away. The paradoxical use of disposable plastic disposing with the length of time the material can decompose should lead us to the plastic waste management mindset. More awareness and effort is needed to reduce the worrying plastic pollution. Dr. Sherri Mason, one of the Orb media research teams, said “we need plastics in our lives, but it is us that is doing the damage by discarding them in very careless way”.