NEW DELHI: In a recent study conducted by a non-profit digital newsroom orb Media based in Washington, of the 15 samples collected from Delhi’s households, “microplastics” were detected in 14 samples. The study was conducted across five continents by orb media and researchers at the State University of New York and the University of Minnesota. 159 water samples from across five continents were tested. The US had the highest contamination rate, at 94%, with plastic fibres found in tap water sampled at sites including Congress buildings, the US Environmental Protection agency’s headquarters, and Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next highest rates.
The study revealed that 83% of the samples had small plastic fibres. The Orb analyses caught particles of more than 2.5 microns in size, 2,500 times bigger than a nanometre.
According to Dr Anne Marie Mahon, Galway-Mayo institute of Technology, there were two principal concerns: very small plastic particles and the chemicals or pathogens that microplastics can harbour. “If the fibres are there, it is possible that the nanoparticles are there too that we can’t measure,” she said. “Once they are in the nanometre range they can really penetrate a cell and that means they can penetrate organs, and that would be worrying.”
The study tested water samples taken from 17 localities in Delhi-NCR which were supplied by the Delhi Jal board. In two instances, from Preet Vihar and Malviya Nagar, the samples were identified as groundwater. A senior official in the Delhi Jal Board said the city is entirely serviced by metal pipes. “We cannot say plastic pipes are shedding the fibres. We need to know a lot more about microplastics before taking further action.” The fibres found in the samples ranged from 0.1mm to 5mm in length, said Orb Media. The fibres were found in a range of colours including blue, black, red, brown or clear, it added.