Water filter systems are used to remove harmful contaminants from our water, including chlorine, disease causing pathogens, and other chemicals. However, the water that we use also contains microplastics, that can be significantly harmful to our health.
According to research studies, more than 90% of bottled water and tap water around the world contains microplastics. This is an alarming figure but unfortunately there are little to no health regulations regarding this.
The same research studies also conclude that on average, a person consumes 100,000 pieces, or 250 grams of microplastics a year.
Fortunately, there are certain water filtration systems that can remove microplastics. Yes, you read that correctly. Talking of water filters, the most commonly used water filtration system is reverse osmosis. But is it efficient enough to remove microplastics?
Does reverse osmosis remove microplastics? Let’s find out:
Does reverse osmosis remove microplastics?
Yes! Reverse osmosis filtration systems can help remove microplastics from your water. However, there are multiple types of reverse osmosis filtration systems, each having a different composition. For best results, you should opt for purchasing a reverse osmosis system that has a carbon pre-filter.
A carbon pre-filter equipped in an RO system is the ultimate solution to removing chlorine, rust, chemicals, pathogens, microplastics, and other harmful contaminants.
But that’s not all. Here is a detailed insight into what microplastics actually are, why they are in our water, and its effect on our bodies.
What Are Microplastics?
Microplastics, as the name suggests, are microscopic sized particles of plastic. The primary source of microplastics is simply the plastic bottles and other plastic trash you see around beaches. Microplastics are not uniform in size and can be found in different sizes.
However, since we are referring to the microplastics found in drinking water, they have a diameter of less than 5 millimeters in size. As mentioned earlier, they are microscopic and cannot be seen with the naked eye. So, unless you have a microscope laying around, you cannot see them.
This is what makes it even more dangerous since you may be looking at a crystal clear bottle of water but at the same time it will be filled with microplastics. If you’re still not sure about the size we’re referring to, allow us to put it this way.
The microplastics that exist in our water are smaller than the width of a single strand of the human hair.
Now, statistically speaking, microplastics aren’t limited to just a single part of the world. It is a global problem, and according to research, there are more than 8 trillion microplastic particles in the oceans across the world.
Unfortunately, plastic particles are not biodegradable unlike other particles, which is why it contributes to the contaminations found in our drinking water. Since most of our drinking water comes from these sources, it is crucial to research on how to remove these particles from the water.
History Of Microplastics:
Microplastics were first discovered back in 2004 by Professor Richard Thompson OBE. Based on their discovery, microplastics have been accumulating in the oceans since the 1960s. So, microplastics have contaminated worldwide waters over the span of more than 60 years.
Microplastics are not only limited to the oceans, they are form from multiple sources. Multiple oversized plastic items are accumulated in our oceans and waterways.
These plastic items are decomposed into smaller pieces over time due to environmental factors such as wind, rain, and sunlight, which leads to the formation of microplastics.
After the microplastics are formed (sized less than 5 mm), they enter our water streams and thus contaminate the water. These microplastics not only affect us, but also affect the marine life significantly.
According to a study, over 90% of the marine life in the Mediterranean Sea is affected due to microplastics solely due to the fact that plastic particles entered their food chain.
Why Microplastics Are In Water?
Microplastics are found both in bottled water and tap water. A research study discovered that over the sample size of 250 water bottles from 9 different countries revealed the presence of microplastics in the water. On average, over 40 particles of plastic were found per gallon of water.
Now, talking about tap water, the same study tested water samples and concluded that over 94% of tap water in the US contained microplastics. Similarly, over 72% of tap water in the Europe had microplastics in it.
Unfortunately, the reason why microplastics are in water is because they are unregulated. Due to this, water utilities or service providers are not obliged to test their water sources for microplastics despite conducting routine tests for other contaminants.
The only way to avoid consuming microplastics and be safe from its health effects is to get a water filter that eliminates microplastics. The best option would be to get an RO system with pre-carbon filters to help remove microplastics.
What Are The Health Risks Of Consuming Microplastics?
Plastic particles can be significantly harmful to human health if consumed. The reason behind this is that there are a number of chemicals in plastics that can pose a threat to our health.
Microplastics can enter our bodies either by drinking unfiltered water or by consuming seafood. Since fish and marine life is directly exposed to microplastics, their bodies usually absorb them and the toxins that are associated with microplastics.
After consuming microplastics from either source, they directly enter our blood stream along with the toxins that microplastics are carrying. As a result, the fat cells, tissues, and your bodily organs are exposed to microplastics that get accumulated in the body over time.
Due to the accumulation of these microplastics, it affects the hormone levels in your body. Similarly, the stomach lining is also affected and leads towards inflammation which can be quite painful.
The other downside to being exposed to microplastics is that they are potential carriers of disease causing pathogens including:
All of these are found in the ocean’s ecosystem and enter our body through microplastics.
When ingested, it can lead towards the following health complications:
- Food poisoning
- Various cancers
- Weakened immune system
- Physical damage to the organs
- May affect the development of the brain in young children
How To Detect Microplastics In Water?
There are a number of ways to detect microplastics in water.
- Using Micro Raman Spectroscopy – It is a means of detecting microplastics in your water and mainly relies on using laser light scattering. Using the Micro Raman Spectroscopy method, you can detect microplastics up to 0.001 microns in size.
- High-Efficiency Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) – HLPC is another means of detecting microplastics in the water. However, using HLPC, you can only identify microplastics that are bigger in size, ranging from 0.05 microns and upwards.
How Much Microplastics Do We Consume?
As mentioned earlier, plastic is not biodegradable. It only breaks down into small pieces. Ultimately, the small pieces of particles end up every where including the food we consume and the water we drink. Here is an insight into how much plastic we consume:
- Every week – Up to 5 grams of plastic (Equivalent to a plastic bottle cap)
- Every month – Up to 21 grams of plastic (Equivalent to a half-filled rice bowl with shredded plastic)
- Every 6 months – Up to 125 grams of plastic (Equivalent to a full cereal bowl containing shredded plastic)
- Every year – Up to 250 grams of plastic (Equivalent to a full serving of shredded plastic on a dinner plate)
- Every 10 years – Up to 2.5 kg of plastic
The amount of microplastic that we consume is significantly harmful to our health in the long run. This is why it is crucial to remove microplastics from your water. Fortunately, reverse osmosis water filtration systems can efficiently remove microplastics from your water.
How Does Reverse Osmosis Filters Remove Micro-Plastics?
Unlike other filtration Reverse Osmosis filters can remove particles up to 0.0001 microns. This is way more than the traditional water filters like microfiltration and nanofiltration systems that can only remove up to 0.05 microns.
Reverse osmosis systems use a high pressure mechanism to filter out contaminations and suspended particles from a water source. There are multiple membranes in the RO system. The high pressure forces the water through the semi-permeable membranes in the RO system which helps filter out the contaminants.
The end result is a cleaner, and purified water ready for your consumption, whether it is for drinking or cooking purposes. Based on the primary working principle of RO systems, they are also referred to as “pressure-driven membrane systems.”
Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration Process Explained:
Here is a detailed insight into how reverse osmosis water filtration works:
- To begin with, raw water, or water from any source is passed to a storage tank located outside the RO filter unit. This action is either done through electricity using a pump or simply using manual operation.
- Afterwards, the water is processed by the sedimentary, pre-carbon, and the UV filters in the RO housing unit. There are multiple membranes in the RO filtration unit through which the water is pushed. They membranes filter out clean and purified water from the contaminated water (raw) using the high pressure system of an RO filter and simply by the force of gravity.
- Ultimately, the end product is free from heavy metals, salts, microplastics, and other particles that are filtered out using the membranes in the RO system -thus improving the overall taste and quality of your water.