MINNEAPOLIS -- For years, studies have revealed plastics in our oceans, lakes and rivers,
but new research from the University of Minnesota shows microscopic plastic fibers could be contaminating drinking water around the world.
Orb Media, along with the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, spent ten months investigating the world of microplastics.
They tested 159 tap water samples from 14 countries.
Worldwide, researchers found microplastics in 83% of the samples, according to the study.
Among the 36 samples taken from 18 cities in the U.S., 94% contained microplastic fibers.
“It's ubiquitous. I mean this stuff is really getting everywhere,” said Mary Kosuth, a U of M graduate student who examined the samples for the project.
According to Orb, microplastics are extremely tiny fibers that come from clothing, carpet, upholstery, and tires.
“It is troubling, very troubling to know this stuff is lurking just under the surface and we are now realizing it’s there,” said Kosuth.
Kosuth says the Twin Cities' tap water was not part of the study.
“I question how they are finding these at different utilities across the US that do filter the water,” said George Kraynick, water quality manager at Minneapolis Water Works.
At Minneapolis Water Works -- 55 million gallons of Mississippi River water is treated, filtered, and pushed to taps every day.
Kraynick says he cannot say for sure if there are microplastic fibers in Minneapolis tap water, because they do not test for it.
Given that, he highly doubts those fibers could make it through the city’s filtration system.
“What we know from looking at other things like cryptosporidium and giardia, we know they aren't getting through, and they are smaller by almost an order of magnitude than these micro fibers they are talking about,” said Kraynick.
Kraynick says most major U.S. cities use the same filtration technology as Minneapolis, which filters down to the micron (.001 mm).
Outside the scope of the Orb study, Kosuth tested 12 samples from 12 brands of beer with water sourced from the Great Lakes, 12 samples of salts found in the grocery store, and three samples from leading bottled water brands.
She says microplastics were found in every one of the samples.
Orb says more studies are needed, both to determine precisely how the microplastics are entering the drinking water and what this might mean for human health.