Study: Microplastics levels in Finnish drinking water low

Finnish household water contains little microplastic, according to results of a preliminary study published by the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) on Thursday.

According to the study, water treatment processes appear to be effective at removing particles from the raw water that is used to produce household water.

Teaming up on the study with SYKE were the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and Finnish Water Utilities Association (FIWA).

Researchers examined various kinds of water, including raw water, treated household water and water from supply networks from three different types of water treatment facilities and their distribution areas. These samples were taken from water utilities in Nurmijärvi, Tuusula and the Helsinki region, all in southern Finland’s Uusimaa region.

“The research included various types of raw water used in Finland and the most common water treatment processes. The research also looked at microplastic in bottled water from two manufacturers,” researcher Julia Talvitie of the Finnish Environment Institute says. The names of the manufacturers are not mentioned in Thursday’s preliminary statement.

All of the water studied included a few particles of plastic measuring over 10 micrometres per litre. A micrometre (abbreviated as μm) is one thousandth of a millimetre. Microplastics are pieces of plastic less than five millimetres long.

The Environment Institute points out that sweeping generalisations cannot be made about the incidence of microplastics in the water supply based on these preliminary results based on a relatively small number of samples.

THL research professor Hannu Kiviranta notes that humans may ingest microplastics through food and air, and that the ratio of exposure from different sources is not yet known.

“However according to this study and other existing data, we can say that exposure to microplastic from tap water is minimal compared to other exposure sources in Finland,” Kiviranta says.

The study was spurred by a report published by the British newspaper The Guardian in September 2017, citing a report by a US-based journalism group called Orb Media. The report, which stirred widespread concern, claimed that 83 percent of tap water samples from more than a dozen nations were contaminated with plastic fibres, with the highest levels in the US.