A recent study has highlighted again concerns over the near-ubiquitous presence of microplastics in our water. Awareness has been growing about microplastics and their impacts upon the marine environment and, potentially, human health. Previously, the bulk of the research done on the topic has focused on microplastics in oceans or lakes, researchers have now discovered alarming levels of microplastics in drinking water. The study found microplastics in 83 per cent of the samples that were taken across several countries.
Microplastics are tiny particles of plastic. They are often produced by the general use, washing, or drying of consumer products such as clothing and carpets, though can also be specifically manufactured for industrial uses or the result of larger pieces of plastic waste breaking down in the environment. It is not entirely clear how they enter drinking water sources. Their impacts upon human health are similarly unknown, though it is known that microplastics absorb toxic chemicals such as pesticides which can be released in the body.
In Canada, a number of studies have been, or are currently being, conducted to assess the presence and impacts of microplastics in Canadian waters, including the Great Lakes and the Arctic. Currently, there are no regulations specifically aimed at reducing the production of microplastics or their entry into waterways.
The federal government recently introduced a regulation to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act that would ban the manufacture or import of most toiletries that contain microbeads. Microbeads are a form of microplastic often used in personal hygiene products to promote exfoliation. The ban comes into effect as of January 1, 2018.