Mar 10th, 2024

Drinking Your Daily Amount Of…Plastic?

We’re told to drink enough water daily to keep ourselves healthy.  At the same time...

We’re told to drink enough water daily to keep ourselves healthy.  At the same time, we’re seeing more and more articles about microplastics and nanoplastics in drinking water.  Microplastics, tiny pieces of plastic less than 5mm in size, have been found in drinking water sources around the world, even in remote locations, and including tap water and bottled water.

The sources of microplastics in drinking water are diverse.  They include: urban runoff, where plastic debris has entered waterbodies through runoff from streets and drainage systems; wastewater treatment, if plastic particles are not effectively filtered out during the treatment process; plastic packaging, if contamination occurs when water is packaged and bottled; atmospheric deposition, if plastic particles travel through the air and into water bodies; or natural degradation, if larger items like bottles or bags breakdown into smaller pieces.

While the presence of microplastics in drinking water is concerning, current research suggests that the levels found are generally low and not considered an immediate health risk based on current knowledge.  Currently, there are no universally agreed-upon health-based guidelines specifically for plastics in drinking water. Regulatory agencies typically set limits for specific contaminants based on their known health effects. However, because microplastics are a relatively new area of concern, there isn't yet sufficient data to establish specific regulatory limits for them in drinking water. 

California has spearheaded the effort to gather more data about our drinking water systems, while research is ongoing to determine whether there are long-term effects of exposure. As research progresses, regulatory agencies may develop guidelines or standards for microplastics in drinking water based on their health effects.

In the meantime, some states and private citizens have used the legal system to hold plastics producers and bottlers responsible for plastic water contamination.  We have yet to see the same traction in these cases, however, as with other emerging contaminants such as PFAS.

As scary as this sounds, it's important to note that the levels detected in water are generally low. And while it took a while to start the necessary research and studies, those are finally occurring. This issue will remain in the news and at the forefront of water law for years to come, and we'll continue to provide updates here.

Latest Posts