ELI5: Microplastics are present in 94% of tap water in the United States. How and at what threshold do they cause harm?

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We do not yet know the effects of microplastics on living organisms. This is still a very new discovery and the research is still in its early stages. There are several people claiming they cause things like obesity, diabetes or reproductive harm, but no definitive link has been determined. Microplastics are small enough that they can pass through most barriers in our body and go directly into the blood stream. They’ve also been found to pass through the placenta into fetuses. The only way to remove microplastics from water is through carbon filters or reverse osmosis purification. You can still be exposed to them through food though, but they’re most prevalent in drinking water.


There is no study that I know of that shows microplastics is harmful to large animals – certainly not in the quantities present in tap water. You have much more pressing environmental problems to worry about. ​ Note large plastic refuse can certainly harm animals e.g by choking them or blocking intestinal tracks – and I could see microplastic doing something similar to very small animals but I have yet to see such a study -if anyone has found one I would be interested to see it.


Do we know how to clean them out of water is there a filter available? Are we talking PPB in water ?


One of the problems is that those particles absorb environmental toxics, such as POP pollutants. This subject is not very studied yet but these toxins build up in us until there’s more and more inside out bodies. They are stored for example in fat tissues, liver etc. Many toxins cause fertility issues and many kinds of sicknesses in animals, but usually those toxins come from different sources than microplastics. This could mean that if we continue to gain more and more plastic inside us that have absorbed toxic stuff, we could have fertility issues, lung diseases etc because of them.


I’m reminded of Ren (of Ren and Stimpy game) saying “THAT’S JUST IT! We don’t. Know. MAYBE something bad? MAYBE something good?”