The Unseen Threat: Microplastics in Our Drinking Water

Share This Article:

With most single-use plastics bypassing recycling plants and heading straight to landfills, microplastics are leaching into our ecosystems at alarming rates.

Single-use plastic production is at an all-time high, increasing from just 1.5 million metric tons in 1950 to over 390 million in 2021. And worrying trends reveal that production rates aren't slowing down anytime soon, with experts predicting production levels will double by 2050.

With most single-use plastics bypassing the recycling plants and heading straight to landfills, microplastics are leaching into our delicate ecosystems at alarming rates.

Plastic pollution poses a considerable risk to both environmental and human health through the prevalence of microplastic particles infiltrating our waterways and finding their way into our drinking water sources daily.

So, just how prevalent are these tiny microplastics? And what do the studies say about their impact on public health? It might surprise you to learn that North American waterways are some of the world's most heavily plastic-polluted water sources and that the long-term health risks of microplastic ingestion are still largely unknown. Let's explore this and more as the topic of microplastics in drinking water continues to unfold.

What are Microplastics?

Plastic is a nearly indestructible material that will never fully decompose. It simply continues to break up into smaller and smaller particles over time, eventually producing what we call microplastics - plastic particles less than 5mm in size. The small size of these particles makes them easily transferable through waterways and other natural systems in the environment, largely undetected.

Sources of Microplastic Pollution in Drinking Water

Plastic Debris

Plastic waste often ends up in the natural environment through careless littering and improper disposal practices. Exposure to the elements like sun and water cause plastic waste to wear down and ultimately break down into small nano plastics. These tiny particles are then carried into our groundwater and freshwater sources through runoff, stormwater, and wastewater.

Personal Care Products

Personal care products like toothpaste, facial scrubs, and sunscreen contain microbeads that can end up in our waterways through wastewater effluent. 

Synthetic Fibers

When synthetic clothing like polyester, nylon, and acrylic are put through a washer, tiny plastic microfibers shed from the clothes and end up in our wastewater, eventually returning to our drinking water supplies.

Agricultural Products

Believe it or not, some agricultural products like fertilizer and mulch contain tiny plastic particles which quickly find their way into our groundwater system

Does All Drinking Water Contain Microplastics?

The World Health Organization (WHO) published a report after combining data from 50 independent water research studies to better understand the current levels of microplastics in freshwater, drinking water, and wastewater. Water sample results from these studies reveal widespread microplastic contamination, with the most prevalent types of plastic being polyethylene terephthalate and polypropylene.

Another study reveals over 80% of samples collected from 5 continents contained plastic fibers. "Microplastic fibers are flowing out of the taps from New York to New Delhi. From the halls of the U.S. Capitol to the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda, women, children, men, and babies are consuming plastic with every glass of water." according to research conducted by Orb Media and a researcher at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

While some states like California are implementing their own testing and water quality regulations related to microplastics, wastewater treatment plants aren’t designed to filter out all particles and there are currently no federal regulations or limits on the levels of microplastics allowed in our drinking water.

And if you think turning to bottled water as a cleaner alternative to tap water will spare you from exposure to these plastic contaminants, think again.

Adverse Health Effects of Microplastics in Drinking Water

Public health risk assessments reveal worrying health impacts of microplastics on the human body. While humans ingest food every day that passes through our systems, the ingestion of plastic polymers is quite different. And while the world waits for large-scale toxicology studies on microplastic exposure with measurable, standard methods, we continue to ingest these particles daily despite the known health concerns regarding three aspects of the plastic particles.

Here are three ways microplastics pose a risk to human health:

Chemical Additives

You may know that you need to avoid BPA and other carcinogenic chemicals in the plastics that come into contact with what you consume, but it's much harder to control the plastics that end up in our water systems and, ultimately, at your tap. You may unknowingly be ingesting harmful chemicals every day through the microplastics lurking in your drinking water.


Plastic particles are breeding grounds for biofilms made of harmful bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants. The microplastics then carry these biofilms through the water system right to your home's tap.


Microplastics are known to bioaccumulate in the body and wreak havoc on our systems. This means that microplastic levels increase exponentially the further up the food chain you go. Studies suggest this accumulation can lead to uptake into our circulatory systems, causing various health issues.

Limit Exposure to Microplastics

Reduce Your Plastic Use

One primary source of microplastics is improperly handled plastic waste. Do your part by ditching those single-use plastic bottles and opting for reusable water bottles free from harmful chemicals like BPA and BPS.

Avoid Synthetic Materials

When washed, widely used synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon shed microfibers. By avoiding these materials and choosing natural fibers like cotton and wool, you can reduce the amount of microplastics released into the environment.

Be Mindful of Personal Care Products

Personal care products like face scrubs and toothpaste may contain microplastics. Reduce your exposure by opting for products labeled "microbead-free" or use natural exfoliants like sugar or salt instead of plastic microbeads.

Filter Your Drinking Water

While the previous recommendations are great ways to take care of the environment and your health, the best way to limit your exposure to microplastics is to invest in a high-quality filtration system that filters out smaller particles of plastic from your drinking water sources.

Get Proven Protection Against Microplastic
Our filtered water pitcher features breakthrough Affinity® Filtration Technology that can remove up to 99.99% of microplastic.

At the time of testing, there is no NSF standard for testing microplastic removal rates or a standardized way to get microplastics in a measured dose to perform any tests. Our lab testing partner uses 3 micron "microsphere" polystyrene balls that are used in other types of water testing to determine removal rates. Once a standard or accepted testing method is determined, we will re-test our products.

Plastic pollution is a relatively new concern, so there are not many enforceable regulations or industry standard tests yet. However, here’s what we know for sure: while there isn’t a lot of definitive information available, it’s safe to say that drinking shreds of plastic isn’t ideal.

We drink water every day. Let's make it plastic-free! Learn more about how filters remove plastics from your water and why you might want to think twice about drawing your drinking water straight from the tap!


1. World Health Organization: Microplastics in drinking-water

2. Statista: Annual production of plastics worldwide from 1950 to 2021,in%20production%20year%20after%20year.

3. PubMed: Potential human health risk assessment of microplastic exposure

4. Orb Media: Invisibles - The Plastic Inside Us

Find the right filter for your needs.