California First Worldwide to Test Drinking Water for Microplastics
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California is the first state in the world to pass a policy handbook for testing microplastics in drinking water sources. The state's water regulators published a policy guide last Sep. 7, 2022, to gather data about microplastics in source water supplies. This is an excellent step toward furthering the conversation about the impact of microplastics on human health and the environment.
Testing Drinking Water for Microplastics
The policy handbook, approved by the California State Water Resources Control Board, was developed with years of research and collaboration with over two dozen laboratories. Under the new plan, the state's most extensive water supplies will start quarterly tests for two years. The testing begins in the fall of 2023.
In previous articles, we have discussed the dire information about microplastics and nanoplastics, specifically the link between continuous ingestion and inhalation of them to various health conditions. Microplastics have unfortunately proliferated much of the environment. Traces have become inescapable in fine dust, air, water systems, land, and even inside the human body and blood.
California's push for testing drinking water for these particles is a key step to recognizing the potential challenging effects of microplastics. Once the levels are determined, the government can plan for technical and economical solutions to minimize exposure.
After all, if microplastics are linked to hormonal disruptions, obesity, and cellular damage, it becomes a public health concern. The state-wide water testing intends to use results to minimize the occurrence of microplastics, determine sources and risks, and form proper monitoring procedures to improve community response.
Testing will start primarily with source waters, the water supplies that have not yet been treated, and sent to residential and commercial taps. Scientists will use a two-pronged approach: one is to evaluate the shape, size, color, and number of plastic particles under a microscope. The second analysis involves beaming a laser to determine what type of material the particles consist of.
Where Microplastics Come From
Drinking water is just one of several ways people inadvertently absorb microplastics. These are found in fish and seafood, mainly due to plastic pollution dumped in waterways that marine life consumes. Microplastics are also used in many cosmetic and personal care products, such as microbeads in scrubs and makeup. Synthetic clothing and plastic furniture also leach off microplastics in the air. And, of course, plastic food packaging, bottles, and cutlery will shed microscopic plastic particles and work their way into our bodies.
California's water regulators are leading the way in testing drinking water for microplastics. It's a step in the right direction regarding learning about microplastics' impact. It is still unknown how much microplastics are present in drinking water and if the treatment removes these particles.