Boiling, Filtering Water Can Get Rid of Microplastics, Study Finds

 Pixabay
Pixabay

A new study finds that boiling and then filtering tap water can remove up to 90 percent of microplastics.

Minute particles of plastic, no larger than a grain of sand, have been found in every corner of the globe, from the bottom of the Tyrrhenian Sea, in the Mediterranean, to the clouds floating over Mount Fuji, in Japan. Shed from car tires, fleece sweaters, and myriad other plastic items, microplastics and even smaller nanoplastics are getting into our food and drinking water, and even the air we breathe. Scientists have found microplastics in blood and breast milk and in the lungs of people undergoing surgery — all troubling discoveries as microplastics have also been shown to damage human cells.

For the new research, scientists in China sought a cheap, easy way to remove microplastics from tap water. They added microplastics to soft and hard water and boiled it for five minutes, with promising results. When boiled, mineral-rich hard water yields calcium carbonate, which forms a chalky crust in pots and tea kettles. Scientists found that tiny flecks of calcium carbonate will ensnare plastic particles. These bits of calcium carbonate are large enough that they can then be removed by pouring the water through a coffee filter.

This approach is more effective in hard water than soft. The study, published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, found that boiling soft water removed only around 25 percent of microplastics, while boiling hard water removed as much as 90 percent.

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