Mon. Sep 16th, 2019

Presence of microplastics in drinking water: Scientists draw attention to a massive environmental challenge

Research study conducted by the team at the University of Surrey and at Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials has drawn attention to the harmful consequences of plastics found in the water streams. The breaking down of these into tiny particles is affecting our aquatic and health systems, claims the recent study.

For the experiment, experts scrutinized micro and nanoplastics present in water and in the treatment processes of wastewater. According to the research team, the treatment process caused the tiny pieces of plastic to further break down. This also affects the performance of the treatment plants, in addition to affecting the quality of water.

Although there has been an elaborated study of microplastics pollution, its interaction with wastewater treatment process and water sources is not completely understood.

Based on the research sources, around 300 million tons of plastic are produced on the global scale every year. Moreover, up to 13 million tons of plastic is released into oceans and rivers, thus contributing to around 250 million tons of plastic by 2050.

Scientists claim, as the plastic material is not degradable through ageing or weathering, the plastic pollution is likely to affect the aquatic environment, an issue which is becoming a major environmental concern in the recent times.

The study was led by Dr Judy Lee and Marie Enfrin from the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering at the University of Surrey and Dr Ludovic Dumée at Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials. It elaborates on the several complications in discovering the presence of micro and nanoplastics in the water treatment systems. The scientists have as a result developed new detection strategies to ensure that the water quality lives up to the safety standards, thus minimizing the threats to the ecosystems. The new detection strategies help scientists to curb the number of nano and microplastics in water and wastewater treatment systems.

“The presence of nano and microplastics in water has become a major environmental challenge. Due to their small size, nano and microplastics can easily be ingested by living organisms and travel along water and wastewater treatment processes. In large quantities they impact the performance of water treatment processes by clogging up filtration units and increasing wear and tear on materials used in the design of water treatment units,” commented Dr Lee, Project Lead and Senior Lecturer at the University of Surrey.