Microplastics are now widely available in drinking water in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, according to a new study.
When plastics are disposed of incorrectly and broken down, the tiny particles and flakes produced enter an environment where they can be absorbed by animals and humans. Recently, researchers have identified microplastics in human blood for the first time.
According to the United Nations, 400 million tons of plastic waste is generated in the world every year. The World Health Organization released a report in 2019 stating that microplastics were “ubiquitous”, but did not know enough about what long-term exposure meant for human health.
“We urgently need to know more about the health effects of microplastics because they are ubiquitous – including our drinking water,” said Maria Neira, director of the WHO’s social assessment department for public health, environment and health.
The study, conducted by researchers at China University of Petroleum and Coventry University in Nigeria, did not investigate the health effects of microplastics. But they were the first to find boreholes in the Lagos area, they were “abundant” in the water and silt of all the borehole samples they made.
About 90% of Lagos’s 20 million inhabitants get their drinking water from boreholes because they are considered less polluted than surface creeks and lagoons. This water is distributed untreated and is usually stored in tanks above human homes. Researchers have noted that microplastics do not corrode and that if plastic contamination continues, it will “accumulate over time as a result of borehole growth in drinking water.”
The report has been published, said Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, The authors suggest that the government should more carefully police the sources of industrial pollution. Microplastic studies on water are difficult, they say, due to the lack of an ideal way to measure pollution. They conclude that “further development of general standards for microplastic sampling and reporting is essential for further research”.
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