UK water treatment removes 99.9% of microplastics study claims

An example of microplastic
An example of microplastics Photo © Oregon State University (cc-by-sa/2.0)

NEW research has found that 99.9% of microplastics are removed from British drinking water during the treatment process at water supply sites.

A compressive study by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, on behalf of UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR), sampled water from 16 different water company sites across the UK to assess how much of the microplastic material was removed by treatment plants.

Microplastics are durable materials that come from the breakdown of larger plastic waste. Earlier this year, a study by the University of Barcelona found that polyethylene made up the most microplastic waste (54.5%) found in the ocean.  Polyethylene is used to make things such as grocery bags, shampoo bottles and other forms of packaging.

The study on British water supplies was commissioned to help UKWIR better understand the levels of microplastics found in the UK water system, as well as to aid water companies in providing safe and healthy drinking water.

Alongside finding that 99.9% of microplastics were removed in the treatment process, the Centre for Ecology also found that 99.9% of microplastic particles were removed from wastewater before said water was then discharged into rivers.

Professor Andrew Johnson, of the study, said, “While there is some public concern about the presence of microplastic particles in drinking water, the levels found were considerably less than has so far been reported in household dust and various food products in other studies.

“However, it should be stressed that so far we have insufficient information on whether microplastic particles are causing harm at current levels in the home or the environment.”