Microplastics have been in and out of the news over the past few years since scientists discovered that a staggering 90% of popular bottled water brands contained tiny pieces of plastic.
But microplastics aren’t only a bottled water issue. Due to widespread plastic pollution, invisible plastic particles are now present in water sources around the world – including those that are used for tap water.
In this guide, we’ve shared everything you need to know about how to remove microplastics from your drinking water.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- The best way to remove microplastics from your tap water is with a water filter that’s capable of trapping or rejecting these tiny particles.
- Filters that can remove microplastics include: ceramic filters, some carbon filters, nanofiltration, ultrafiltration, distillation & reverse osmosis systems.
- Microplastics are invisible plastic particles that have made their way into our drinking water supplies due to global microplastic pollution.
- Some of the known health risks of ingesting microplastics are reproductive problems, various cancers, inflammation, and weakened immune systems.
Table of Contents
✅ Best Methods to Remove Microplastics From Water
Microplastics are tiny – about 0.7 microns – so they’ll slip through the pores of the average water filtration medium along with the water particles themselves.
To remove microplastics from water, you need a specialist filter, such as:
Ceramic Water Filters
Ceramic water filters use all-natural ceramic technology to reduce particles as small as 0.2 microns, including microplastics.
Other contaminants reduced by ceramic water filters are 99% of pathogenic bacteria, sediment, and turbidity.
Ceramic filter cartridges are usually found in countertop gravity water filtration systems, emergency portable water filters, and under-sink systems.
Nano filters are water filters with tiny filter pores (usually about 0.0001 microns). Their tiny pore size makes them capable of reducing even the smallest of particles, including microplastics, viruses, organic molecules, and salts.
Nanofiltration is often used in combination with another filter media, such as activated carbon media, in a point-of-use filter. Portable water filters and water pitchers commonly use a nanofiltration filter.
Reverse Osmosis Filtration Systems
Reverse osmosis is one of the most effective, thorough forms of water purification, producing bottled water quality from home.
An RO membrane has a pore size of 0.0001 microns. When water is forced through the membrane, contaminants larger than the membrane pores are rejected.
Most reverse osmosis systems are POU units, such as countertop systems and under-sink systems.
Some Activated Carbon Water Filters
Granular activated carbon filters can filter contaminants down to 5 microns. That means they’re capable of reducing larger microplastic particles, but they won’t remove the smaller particles.
Alongside some microplastics, this filtration method also reduces chlorine, taste and odor, some heavy metals, disinfection byproducts, VOCs, pesticides, and herbicides.
Activated carbon water filters are found in a range of filtration applications, including water pitcher filters, reverse osmosis systems, under-sink systems, and whole home filter units.
A water distiller produces pure water using the distillation process – boiling tap water until it evaporates, then capturing and cooling the steam so that it condenses into a separate container.
Water distillers remove more than 99.9% of all drinking water contaminants, including microplastics, heavy metals, microorganisms, minerals, salts, and chemicals.
Most home water distillers are countertop units, but floor-standing units are also available.
Ultrafiltration is similar to, but not quite as thorough as, reverse osmosis. An ultrafiltration membrane has a pore size of 0.02-0.05 microns – so it’s small enough to trap all microplastics found in tap water.
Most ultrafiltration membranes are found in under-sink and whole home water filtration systems.
⛔️ Which Water Filters CAN’T Remove Microplastics From Water?
There are a few types of water filter media that can’t remove microplastics, including:
- Sediment filters with a large pore size
- Ion exchange filters
- KDF filters
📌 A filter’s ability to remove microplastics is determined more by its pore size than the type of filter media removed. The smaller the pore size, the greater the range of microplastics that are removed.
🤔 What Are Microplastics?
If you’ve clicked on this article, you probably know enough about microplastics and their dangers that you want to remove them from your drinking water.
But just in case you’re looking for a recap, here it is.
Microplastics are tiny plastic particles that are present in the environment. This type of plastic contamination is caused by the disposal and breakdown of plastic products, such as plastic bags, plastic bottles, clothing made from synthetic fibers, and plastic straws.
When microplastics get into our water sources (such as in marine debris and plastic litter in lakes and rivers), they get into the marine food chain and pose a major threat to marine life.
But the adverse effects of microplastics aren’t only limited to the environment. Microplastics in the water eventually end up being consumed by humans – so public health is threatened, too.
🔎 How Do Microplastics Get Into Water?
Microplastics get into water from:
- Wastewater effluent
- Industrial effluent
- Surface runoff
- Degraded plastic waste
- Sewer overflows
- Atmospheric deposition
It’s thought that only about 10% of all the plastic in the world is recycled, and plastic use is only increasing. Consuming microplastics in our water supplies is now more likely than ever.
Wastewater treatment reduces microplastics in water, but it doesn’t remove them entirely. Unfortunately, this means that your local water treatment plant probably won’t remove all the microplastic particles from water, so you’ll find them in your own home’s water supply.
🩺 What Are the Health Effects of Drinking Microplastics?
Research into the potential human health effects of microplastics is still new and ongoing, but what we know so far isn’t promising.
According to studies, the potential health effects of microplastic pollution are:
- Reproductive damage (due to the phthalates used to make plastics more durable)
- Developmental issues in children
- Various cancers
- Weakened immune system
- Inflammation, such as inflammatory bowel disease
- Organ damage
- Hormone disruption
📌 Unfortunately, microplastics have already made their way into our bodies. In early 2022, an environmental science researcher discovered microplastic pollution in 80% of human blood, and noted that in the bloodstream, the ingested microplastic particles were capable of traveling around the body and damaging cells in different organs.
📝 Final Word
If you’re concerned about drinking pieces of plastic that are invisible to the naked eye, you know what to do: filter your water from this moment on.
You should also do your bit to reduce plastic pollution. Avoid single-use plastics, recycle where you can, choose food products with non-plastic packaging, use a reusable water bottle instead of single-use bottled water when you’re out and about, and purchase items (such as clothes) second-hand.
❔ Removing Microplastics From Water: FAQ
Can you filter microplastics out of water?
Yes, you can filter microplastics out of water. However, not all water filters can remove microplastics. The best filters for microplastic removal are reverse osmosis filters, ceramic filters, nano filters, water distillers, and some activated carbon filters.
Does a Brita filter remove microplastics?
No, Brita filters don’t remove microplastics. The filters in Brita pitchers are basic and only remove a handful of common contaminants, including chlorine, taste and odor. You’ll need a more advanced filter to reduce microplastics.
How effective are microplastic filters?
Microplastic filters – or water filters designed to remove microplastics – are generally between 70% and 99.9% of microplastic removal. No matter how thorough the filtration, there’s always the chance that a very small percentage of microplastic particles will remain in your water, but in much smaller quantities than before.
Can your body get rid of microplastics?
Yes, your body can get rid of microplastics with normal fecal excretion. However, recent research has found that microplastics can be absorbed into the bloodstream, and it isn’t clear whether – or how – these particles are removed from the body.