According to a report from the UN World Health Organisation, we urgently need to know more about microplastics, although according to our very limited current knowledge, they represent only a minimal health risk. Polluted drinking water is a much greater problem, as its consumption causes millions of fatalities each year.
The WHO report states that microplastics – that is to say, pieces of any plastic smaller than 5 mm – are present not only in natural waters but even in bottled mineral water. According to our current, highly limited knowledge, they do not pose a risk in the concentrations in which they currently occur in the environment.
The WHO’s Dr. Bruce Gordon claims that research so far is reassuring for consumers: the findings suggest that all larger plastic particles and most of the smaller ones simply pass through the body without being absorbed at all.
However, research of the topic has only started in the last few years, so we do not have enough data as yet for a conclusive verdict, and neither is there a standardised methodology (which explains why, according to some measurements, a litre of water contains one microplastic particle, while others claim it actually contains a thousand pieces).
The WHO claims that at present, the issue of microplastics is much less of a problem than the fact that two billion people drink water polluted with human waste, which causes a million deaths per year.
It was announced in 2010 that the Vietnamese government would like to build a water treatment plant in Central Vietnam. Hungary is famous for its water treatment technology so they decided on a Hungarian partner.
The Trappist monks of Koningshoeven Abbey have been brewing beer since 1881, and in recent years, they have also been baking bread and making chocolate, honey and cheese. The water to be treated is the wastewater from these brewing and manufacturing activities, together with the municipal wastewater from the Abbey and the visiting centre.
Specialists believe almost 30 kilograms of microplastics has eroded from such a quantity of golf balls into the water.
Over the last three decades, summer algal blooms in all large fresh-water lakes around the world have grown more severe – this is the conclusion of a global study, the longest ever of its kind, conducted by researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science and NASA.
The system created by a Dutch inventor called System 101, whose first trial run, conducted a year ago, had failed, has started collecting plastic waste on the Pacific again.
Many studies worldwide have shown that the active compounds of medications are released into the environment with wastewater and can easily be reintroduced into the human food chain from there. Filtering these residues out is an increasingly acute concern, but, thankfully, the world of science has already responded to the problem.
Researchers from Canada and Africa have found a massive amount of plastic bottles, originating form Asia, mainly from China, on Inaccessible Island, located in the South Atlantic Ocean. The bottles were probably discarded into the water and then washed up on the island from cargo ships passing the region.
In Hungary, too, the active ingredients of various medications are discharged continuously into the environment with wastewater, so they can now be detected in surface and underground waters as well as in soils.
After being introduced into human and animal organisms, some pharmaceutical compounds are secreted via urine unchanged, and then, through wastewater, those compounds may reach surface waters that serve as drinking water supplies, representing a risk for both aquatic ecosystems and for the purity of drinking water.
We’ve known for a long time that plastic food packaging, wearing car tyres and clothing made of synthetic fibres are all sources of microplastic pollution. However, a new study has identified a new source of pollution in our kitchens, or more precisely in our teacups.