Plastic contaminates 94% of U.S. tap water, research finds, the most of any country studied

Microscopic pieces of plastic have infiltrated tap water systems around the world, according to new research on worldwide water systems.

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According to Orb Media, a non-profit data journalism newsroom in Washington, 83 percent of the tap  water sampled globally was contained with microscopic plastic particles. 

The U.S. had the highest contamination rate at 94 percent, and water sampled from Europe to India and in parts of the Middle East had plastic contamination above 70 percent, according to the Orb study.

Sites sampled in the U.S. included “Congress buildings, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters and Trump Towers,” the Guardian reported.

Most research to this point has concentrated on massive plastic garbage patches in the world’s oceans, and the impact of tiny pieces of plastic from those huge patches on marine life, which people then eat. But the impact of drinking microplastic particles on humans is still unknown.

“We have enough data from looking at wildlife, and the impacts that it’s having on wildlife, to be concerned,” Dr Sherri Mason, a microplastic expert at the State University of New York in Fredonia, and a supervisor on the study for Orb, told the Guardian.

“If it’s impacting [wildlife], then how do we think that it’s not going to somehow impact us?”

Researchers don’t know exactly how the tiny pieces of plastic are entering the water tables that cities use for tap water, but tons of plastic fibers from clothes discharged in wastewater, mishandled plastic waste, synthetic fibers in the atmosphere, tire dust washed into storm drains and streams are a few of the possible ways such large-scale contamination could be occurring.

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According to a 2013 report, 300 million tons of plastic is produced worldwide every year, and millions of tons end up in the oceans and landfills.

Only about 10 percent of consumer plastic was recycled in 2012, according to the Worldwatch Institute.