Microplastics pollutes water sources! Water filters make great contributions

2021.10.09

 

1. Introduction

As the times change, people use more and more plastic elements in order to facilitate their lives. But for convenience, it slowly caused indelible damage to the environment. Where did the plastic products that we use every day go? In fact, these plastics did not disappear, but were buried in the soil or in the ocean, river or water sources. And these plastic products will not disappear forever. The plastic will slowly decompose in the water, and finally become the topic for today's article "microplastic".

 

2. What is microplastics?

Microplastics refer to any plastic material size is less than 5 mm. So where do microplastics come from? As mentioned in the introduction, the plastic products that used in people's daily life will become microplastics. For example: straws, disposable tableware, plastic bags, plastic cups, bottles, and nylon materials in clothes. Even large plastic products like plastic buckets, fishing nets, and plastic flooring. The plastic material itself does not "decompose", it will only "crush" into microplastics in the environment. Continue to harm the environment in places that are not usually noticed or invisible to the naked eye.

"Primary microplastics" refers to artificially produced non-crushed “plastic particles ". Plastic particles are most commonly used in facial cleansers, exfoliating products and cosmetics in daily supplies. Plastic particles also refer to microbeads which made of plastic add in products. Because plastic particles are harmful to the environment, Taiwan has officially banned the sale of any products containing microbeads in July 2018.

No matter what kind of plastic products are in the ocean or rivers, after years of sunshine, embrittlement and fragmentation, "secondary microplastics" are formed.

 

3. Where does microplastics pollution comes from

As mentioned in the description, different plastics will be slowly broken down into microplastics in water. Moreover, it may cause pollution in many places that we did not expect. For example

1

Recycled Plastic

The raw materials for most of the plastic products can be recycled and reused. When the plastic factory smashes unqualified products (in order to put them into the injection molding machine for melting processing and remolding), the grinder machine breaks the plastic products into granules or powder. The powder will cause dust and float everywhere. Some plastic particles may also fall to the ground, be dumped into trash cans and even flow into rivers and oceans.

2

Clothing Fiber

When clothing factories cut fabrics made of plastic fibers, they for surer produce fine powder. These powders (microfibers) will be poured into rivers and flow into the ocean just like plastic injection.

3

Exfoliating Facial Cleanser

When cosmetics manufacturers produce exfoliating facial cleansers, in order to make the products popular with users, they usually add special microbeads to facial cleansers. Make the microbeads easily rub against the face to gain effectively exfoliating. And these microbeads enter the sewers and flow into the ocean at the end.  

 

4.Environmental pollution caused by microplastics.

According to the news from BBC, scientists are investigating and researching microplastics in the mid-Atlantic. From the surface of the sea to the depth of 200 meters, the total weight of microplastics amounts to 12 to 21 million tons, which is equivalent to 1,000 container ships.

Related reports also pointed out that the plastic waste in the environment will flow into the ocean through various pipes. Such as artificial waterways, rivers and streams, or even discarded by human into the sea. After these plastic wastes have been drifting in the ocean for a long time, it will take at least 500 years for them to split to completely decompose. When plastic waste is decomposed into microplastics, humans are likely to absorb these waste plastics into the body through various food or water sources and cause harm.

Picture resource fromGreenpeace

5. Human health problem caused by microplastics.

It is conceivable that plastic will cause a certain amount of harm to the environment, but what kind of harm will microplastics cause to the human body? The most frightening thing about microplastics is that through the food chain, people eat them into the body without knowing it. Due to plastic pollution in the ocean, many seafood, fish and shellfish also absorb many microplastics. As a result, people indirectly absorb harmful plastic substances when eating.  

Long-term consumption of toxic plastics can cause toxic substances to affect the body's endocrine system, reproductive system and even cause cancer. For human health, plastic disasters can be said to be an issue that must be paid attention to.

 

6. How to prevent the harm from microplastics

Reduce the amount of plastic used

Reduce the use of plastic bags in supermarket shopping, use environmentally friendly cups and environmentally friendly straws for take away drinks, and do not use disposable tableware when dining out. Even when buying clothes, dont forget pay attention to the material and avoid buying clothes that contain plastic fiber materials.

 

Garbage separation

Do not discard the polluted environment randomly. Let the professional environmental protection bureau carry out the follow-up garbage disposal.

 

Dietary

Tap water, seafood products and salt are all affected by microplastics. Considering the nutritional value of seafood and the overall human body intake, it will not cause major harm. The tap water can be filtered by reverse osmosis and hollow fiber membrane water filtration equipment to filter out microplastics in the water.

 Picture resource from: SinoPac

 

7. RO system or water purifier more efficient for cleaning water

Both water purifiers and reverse osmosis system have gradually become indispensable home appliances in household products. The water purifier entered the market earlier than reverse osmosis system. How to choose between the two models? Which model works better for filter out the "microplastic" we mentioned in this article?

Compared with the two water filtration products, reverse osmosis system is more efficient than water purifier. Due to the RO membrane filtration, most of the harmful substances in the water can be effectively filtered out. For example: viruses, heavy metals, bacteria, microplastics, etc. It can even remove calcium and magnesium ions, which is commonly known as scale. As for the water purifier, it is an early product in the water purification industry. In the early stage, the water was simply filtered to make the quality of the water better. It was not until later that more advanced filter elements began to appear, which improved the water purification quality of the water purifier. For example: a hollow fiber membrane that can be sterilized.

 

Through the following graph, we could have quick exanimate what type of filter model filter out the pollutions:

8. What type of filter material suitable for purify microplastics

Let us practice a little over here, the standard size for microplastics are plastics that under size of 5 mm. By following this standard, let us check which of the commonly used filter material suitable for filter out microplastics!

Size measurement1mm = 1,000µm = 0.1 cm

 

Polypropylene FiberGenerally Polypropylene Fiber has two pore sizes, which is 1 µm and 5µm. It is mainly use for filter a large amount of soild, sediment and silt. The pore size is in line with the size that can filter microplastics.

Chlorine, Taste & Odor Reduction - CTOFilter pore size 0.2-0.5µm. The main purpose is to filter chemical residues, odors and residual chlorine. In terms of pore size, it can be said that it is easy for block activated carbon to filter microplastics.

Granular Activated Carbon - GACThe granular size is generally 1-6mm. Because it is granular, the overall filter pore size is relatively large. The purpose is the same as block activated carbon, mainly to filter chemical residues, peculiar smell and residual chlorine. Since there is no precise pore size, it is impossible to confirm whether the microplastics can be effectively filtered.

Hollow Fiber MembraneFilter pore size 0.2-0.02µm. It is mainly use for filter bacteria, rust and particulate impurities. If you are using a water purifier, you can add a hollow fiber membrane to ensure that microplastics residues will not remain in the drinking water.

RO MembraneFilter pore size 0.0001µm. According to the pore size, it can be imagined that the RO membrane has the best filtering effect. It can filter bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, pesticides, etc. in the water, including all minerals. For sure no problem with microplastics!

 

AuthorSally Lee 李慕晨  Oct. 09. 2021

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Reference

Taiwan Environmental Protection AdministrationSGS Taiwan Official siteGreenpeaceBBC NewsTomorrow Science