a credit card per week
June 12, 2019 4:24 AM   Subscribe

People worldwide could be ingesting five grammes of microscopic plastic particles every week. Coming mostly from tap and especially bottled water, nearly invisible bits of polymer were also found in shellfish, beer and salt. "If we don't want it in our bodies, we need to stop the millions of tons of plastic that continue leaking into Nature every year." posted by ragtag (33 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
I rarely drink bottled water, and most of the tap water I drink goes through the Brita first. Hopefully that helps?

If we survive the next century or two, Future People will look back on today as an impossibly backward age. I mean, 19th-century city streets that were ankle-deep in horse shit are one thing, but at least they weren't threatening global ecosystems.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:32 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Ugh. Where I currently live the tap water is not safe and Brita is not enough as there have been reports of E. coli and other bio contaminants.

I’ve lucked out in not getting sick from tap water but plenty of people have and do. I thought it was a bunch of hullabaloo until I saw several reports from various people in town who had their water tested.

:-/

Guess I’ll take microplastic over E Coli for now.
posted by sio42 at 4:57 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


a credit card per week

Would you like to sign up for a Target red card and save 10% today?

No I'm good, I need to poop later.
posted by phunniemee at 5:07 AM on June 12 [8 favorites]


@sio42 I don’t know if it’s feasible for you but Berkley water filters are very good. You can either boil first and then filter or filter and then lightly bleach. It’s what myself and most Peace Corps volunteers I know, had for their service. http://www.getberkey.com/big-berkey-water-filter-system-2-25-gallons/
posted by raccoon409 at 5:11 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Also, sio42, lifestraw now makes a pitcher that filters out E. Coli and microplastics and all kinds of other junk.
posted by mosst at 5:22 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


It does sound gross and scary, but as TFA mentions, there really isn’t any evidence that this is actually harmful to anyone. Obviously needs to be studied more, but the 5 grams per week figure doesn’t mean much to me without some data as to what it implies for human health, if anything.
posted by saturday_morning at 5:31 AM on June 12 [20 favorites]


Thanks for info other alternatives - I’m leaving in less than a year (I’m not peace corps or anything). However it’s good to know and I’ll pass on to folks here as it comes up here in convo!
posted by sio42 at 5:36 AM on June 12


The phrasing "mostly from tap and especially bottled water" in the very second sentence really bothers me and makes me wary of the entire rest of the article. What does it mean? Is it assuming I know that that greatest volume of water ingested by humans globally is sourced from a tap? Maybe that's common knowledge but personally I have absolutely no idea if it's true. Does "especially bottled water" mean that bottled water, while responsible for a smaller percentage of total consumed microplastics, contains on average a higher concentration of microplastics?

@sio42: I'll throw out a rec for absolute micron filters, Sawyer being the gold standard. Sawyer Squeeze units last a long long time without needing to replace a filter or anything, and I believe you can hook them up to a gravity filtration system so you don't have to spend time actively filtering it. I've used mine on more than enough water sources that were tested to be contaminated with various bacteria (ex e coli) and protozoa so I have no doubt it's actually doing something. More recently they have made models intended for sources with other possible contaminants like viruses, heavy metals, and farm runoff. I don't have any first-hand experience with them as only bacteria+protozoa are concerns in my part of the world (and I can easily enough avoid farms, mining/smelting ops, etc).

If you have the water tested and don't expect any change in class of contaminants imo it would be better to get a system that just covers what you need rather than go overkill "just in case". The more classes you filter out the more annoying it is to filter the water, taking more time, methods, steps, and/or maintenance.

Sorry I get really excited about safe drinking water.
posted by ToddBurson at 6:18 AM on June 12 [6 favorites]


Credit Cards Georg, who lives in bank & eats over 10,000 each day, is an outlier adn should not have been counted
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:23 AM on June 12 [39 favorites]


... most of the tap water I drink goes through the Brita first.

Brita being a container made of plastic that filters particles of plastic

We are so screwed.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:00 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


I bought $4000 in microplastic supplements from Alex Jones, are you saying these aren't okay to ingest? How the fuck else will I counter the pernicious effects of chemtrails?
posted by duffell at 7:02 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Does "especially bottled water" mean that bottled water, while responsible for a smaller percentage of total consumed microplastics, contains on average a higher concentration of microplastics?

It seems intuitively correct, since bottled water is usually just tap water in plastic bottles, so, yeah, on a first order, general sense, seems like an ok assumption
posted by eustatic at 7:16 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


I've eaten 5 grams of plastic pen caps a week for the past 40 years and I TURNED OUT JUST FINE.
posted by drlith at 7:38 AM on June 12 [10 favorites]


...and especially bottled water...

This bit perplexes me. Is there some sort of sloughing of the bottle that is occurring? It's been my impression that bottled water, while being generically "tap" water, is usually filtered before bottling, using systems at least as effective as any home filter available.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:19 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


What's currently unknown is how microplastics affect the ocean's food chain, given that they seem to be ubiquitous in the bellies of filter feeders.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:21 AM on June 12


Our civilization's reliance on single-use plastics is nuts. (Less so than the amount of stuff that could be turned into plastics but we choose to burn instead, but that's another argument.)

But. . . unless we think it's being broken down into individual molecules that are harmful in the gut, is there any reason to assume this isn't equivalent to dietary fiber? I know I don't want this stuff burned or larger versions of it eaten by fish. If this article convinces people to use plastics more responsibly, one could argue it doesn't matter if there are actual health consequences. But, I eat lots of indigestible stuff all the time. Doing so mostly makes me a healthier person. I store solvents that make stomach acid look like bath water in polyethylene containers for years. It's not entirely obvious that I don't want this in my body.
posted by eotvos at 8:24 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


This bit perplexes me. Is there some sort of sloughing of the bottle that is occurring?

That's what I heard. There was a thing on CBC (I think?) last year about microplastics in bottled water and the researcher they interviewed said much of it came from the bottle and the cap. Apparently the act of opening the bottle liberates a whole cloud of microplastics.
posted by selenized at 9:07 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


this post sent me to down a rabbit hole where i researched water filtering solutions and came to the conclusion that i should just ingest cyanide because everything is trying to kill us and you cant even dhave a dkrin ofwaltherwiuthoutdyinganymore WHY IS LIVING DEATH ALL THE TIME NOW
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:39 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Even if it's not killing us, it should be embarrassing us, like a species-wide dandruff.
posted by condour75 at 9:53 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


I am appalled at the idea of ingesting a credit card per week but also kind of want to know what the credit limit is on that card I ate?
posted by caution live frogs at 10:21 AM on June 12 [6 favorites]


This bit perplexes me. Is there some sort of sloughing of the bottle that is occurring? It's been my impression that bottled water, while being generically "tap" water, is usually filtered before bottling, using systems at least as effective as any home filter available.


This is why you see "BPA Free" on all your plastic bottles now. In the past it was bisphenol A we were ingesting, now its something else.
posted by sideshow at 10:56 AM on June 12


What is worse, the clear plastic of 'individual serving' bottles or the half-gallon semi-translucent bottles I've poured water (Crystal Geyser spring) out of into personal mugs and ice trays- both of which are some kind of plastic... now I'm thinking about all the plastic containers the water - and all the other stuff I consume - come in... how much microplastic leaches out of Lean Cuisine Lasagna trays or Tostitos bags (and does more leach from the Hint of Lime flavor than the plain)?!?!?
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:10 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


If you're going to filter your water, look into filtering hexachromium. Remember Erin Brockovich? That was about hexachromium, and hexachromium is underregulated, in most urban water systems, and not good for you.

When I researched it, the ZeroWater system was the only filter pitcher that was supposed to handle that particular contaminant.
posted by amtho at 3:51 PM on June 12


Does "especially bottled water" mean that bottled water, while responsible for a smaller percentage of total consumed microplastics, contains on average a higher concentration of microplastics?

It seems intuitively correct, since bottled water is usually just tap water in plastic bottles, so, yeah, on a first order, general sense, seems like an ok assumption
I think the issue is, the article makes vague teaser statements that it doesn't follow up with actual information. If that is true, I would say the article sucks and I am skeptical about everything it says. Note: that is just my interpretation--I didn't write any of the quoted material above.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 8:49 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Toxic plankton are happy, at least:
Organisms can grow on microplastics in freshwater ecosystems. The findings of a recent study undertaken by researchers from the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) and the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research, Warnemünde (IOW) show that the potentially toxin-producing plankton species Pfiesteria piscicida prefers to colonise plastic particles, where they are found in 50 times higher densities than in the surrounding water of the Baltic Sea and densities about two to three times higher than on comparable wood particles floating in the water.
posted by jamjam at 9:27 PM on June 12


That reminds me of the Vibrio associated with the toxic dispersant and oil in tarballs that washes up during the BP disaster.
posted by eustatic at 4:20 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


This is another issue that consumers are expected to handle themselves (and pay for and quality control) when it is industry that needs to solve it. It will cost them money, so only a small number of companies will actually try to solve it without being forced.

The only water I know of that has no obvious plastic in the consumer packaging is Topo Chico in the 12 pack of glass bottles that require an opener. The larger bottles have metal screw tops, which have plastic in them for sure. I am not even sure the opener-required ones don't have some plastic inside. I only know of one store in my area that carries it: Walmart.
posted by soelo at 8:27 AM on June 13


The only water I know of that has no obvious plastic in the consumer packaging is Topo Chico in the 12 pack of glass bottles that require an opener.
posted by soelo

Hate to break it to you but there's a thin layer of some kind of plastic/rubber/silicone on the inside of every metal bottle cap.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:47 AM on June 13


Weird question but have potato chips only ever been sold in plastic bags? I’m guessing they weren’t a commercial product before then?
posted by raccoon409 at 7:21 PM on June 13


"If we don't want it in our bodies, we need to stop the millions of tons of plastic that continue leaking into Nature every year."

"The authors of Wednesday's report were up front about the limitations of their research, starting with the fact that little is known about health consequences."

So really, we don't really know if we want it or not. Maybe it's making us stronger, surely our bodies could have some material improvements with some plastic elements. Everything is carcinogenic these days so if it turns out it's just more cancer risk, might go in the pile of deadly things I do because I just like em. Eating grilled food, ever going anywhere sunlight touches, breathing the gas around me. Drinking water is cool and I'm gonna always do it even if it kills me.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:48 PM on June 13


The chance that it's making us stronger is no better than of the same order as the chance that a random mutation in DNA makes an organism stronger -- in other words, very, very low.

To pretend otherwise may be more comfortable, but it makes a person an accessory to the poisoning of our entire planet.
posted by jamjam at 9:38 PM on June 13


Weird question but have potato chips only ever been sold in plastic bags?
Here we get several different brands of chips in paper bags. But I think the bags may have plastic linings. I guess I'll have to buy one to find out...
posted by mumimor at 10:18 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Weird question but have potato chips only ever been sold in plastic bags? They started out being sold in waxed paper bags, it looks like. In the 1970s, I remember foil packaging that contained little (if any) plastic, and metal canisters like these.
posted by Emera Gratia at 7:26 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


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