Have you ever wondered about those small glittering beads found in personal care products? These beads are classified as microplastics.
They are destroying our water supply.
So, what exactly are Microplastics?
Microplastics are less than 5mm long, or about the size of a sesame seed (even smaller). They can come from the following sources:
- Larger plastics that land in our ocean and rivers. The plastic breaks down into microplastics, that are not always clear to the eye.
- Resin pellets, used to manufacture plastics.
- Fibers, shed from fabrics used or washed.
- Microbeads, which are tiny pieces of polyethylene plastic added to health & beauty products such as cleansers and toothpaste.
You might be wondering: “Why now, are we only hearing about microbeads being a threat to our water?”
A bit of history around microbeads:
It started around 50 years ago, personal care products will use microbeads to replace natural ingredients. An article written by Down to earth states that, microbeads were used as bulking agent. To help increase volume of the product.
As late as 2012, the issue of microbeads polluting our water and environment was still relatively unknown. Hence the importance of awareness and research.
Although this topic is still growing in research, and the current findings are showing the danger of plastics to the marine life and ours. The knowledge gaps in developing countries (such as our beloved South Africa) are huge.
Plastic found in South Africa’s drinking water
An article written by the Conversion mentioned that, at the request of South Africa’s Water Research Commission. They recently undertook a scoping study of microplastics in freshwater in the country’s economic powerhouse Gauteng and an area to the south of the region.
It is found that surface water from the Vaal River (the largest tributary of South Africa’s longest river, the Orange River) is highly polluted with microplastics. This is most likely due to water draining into the river from industries in the area. They also found that fibers were more abundant in rural rivers, possibly due to untreated laundry water entering these rivers and plastic trash.
News24 mentioned that there are substantial amounts of microplastics found in tap water, rivers in Gauteng and borehole water in the North-West province.
One of the concerns is what toxic chemicals may be entering the body with microplastics.
“Pollutants stick to the outside of the plastic and absorb by plastic. Especially the hydrophobic chemicals – like DDT*.” “What we don’t know yet, is whether these chemicals move from the plastic into the body of the organism that swallow it.”
(*DDT – made famous by Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring in the 1960s – is a pesticide that is taken up in the food chain and is toxic to a wide range of organisms.)
So, what now?
Experience in other countries show that one of the most effective actions, is the immediate ban on microbeads.
We also suggest a review of laws and regulations from all over the world. To provide a guide on how South Africa can strengthen its responses to plastic pollution.
In particular, our country needs to develop laws around plastic packaging which seems to be the most obvious and visible component of inland plastics pollution.
The plastics issue in South Africa (and the world) can only be addressed with a joint effort from the following entities: producers, retailers, designers, consumers, scientists, conservationists, government, and society.
Although praiseworthy, recycling isn’t the complete solution. We need to do more.
Given market forces and few regulations, meaningful voluntary reduction of the plastic components of packaging, or promoting the use of recyclable or reusable plastic products (which are more expensive), seems remote.
Although those are long term goals, and need a large amount of admin, and people to change.
We at Ultimate Water have a solution for you and your personal home.
All our filters with 0,5-micron rating can take microplastics out the water.
For your home:
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