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Plastic Fibers Are Found in 83 Percent of World’s Tap Water, a New Study Reveals

No matter where in the world you, virtually all the tap water is contaminated with microscopic plastic fibers, according to a new study. As reported by Time, a whopping 83 percent of tap water samples worldwide tested positive for the fibers; in the U.S., however, 94 percent of all samples included plastic microfibers.

In the developed world, water is something we generally take for granted. We just turn on the tap and expect good, clean water to flow. In reality, though, we are becoming almost primitive when it comes to what’s in that water. Yes, we’re aware of the dangers of bacterial pollution or heavy metals like lead, but how often do we think of plastic in terms of bad things in our water? As this study shows, staggering amounts of plastic waste, from water bottles and plastic bags to tiny microbeads and microfibers, are entering waterways worldwide.

These plastic microfibers come from numerous sources. But did you know that the very clothes you’re wearing right now are probably contributing to this contamination, too? Synthetic microfibers make up 85 percent of shoreline debris worldwide, and have been found in both table salt and fish sold for human consumption. And these microfibers are found in both synthetic fabrics and the fleece pants and jackets you wear.

They’ve become so significant as water pollutants, in fact, that microfibers are now considered serious food contaminants, as they are consumed by fish and other wildlife, and then eventually move up the food chain — and into your stomach. To address these problems, scientists are calling for appliance companies to investigate the effectiveness of adding filters to catch the microfibers when you wash your clothes.

You can help by buying less and becoming more conscious of the damage “fast fashion” does to the environment. As described in my previous article on "fast fashion," the entire life cycle of a piece of clothing would ideally be taken into account before buying, as most of your discarded clothes actually end up in landfills, or are resold to third world countries where local clothing industries then suffer instead.
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