Wed, Sep 26, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Microplastics found in seafood, water: survey

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Microplastics that commonly wash ashore at beaches in Taiwan are pictured in an undated photograph.

Photo courtesy of the Environmental Protection Administration

Microplastics can be found in most samples of seawater, beach sand, seafood and tap water, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday, urging people to reduce use of disposable plastic products and do more recycling.

The agency released at a news conference in Taipei its first large-scale survey about microplastic contamination in water and seafood conducted by its Environmental Analysis Laboratory from December last year to July.

Microplastics are small plastic pieces less than 5mm in diameter, as defined by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the EPA said.

Researchers tested 100 samples of tap water and 23 samples of unfiltered water collected from 89 water purification plants nationwide, and 97 samples of seawater, beach sand and shellfish meat collected from seven fishing farms and two beaches, laboratory section chief Yang Hsi-nan (楊喜男) said.

Plastic specks can be found in 61 percent of the unfiltered water samples and 44 percent of the tap water samples, with the former containing zero to 8 pieces of microplastics per liter of water, and the latter zero to 6 pieces per liter of water, the survey showed.

Eighty-five percent of the plastic debris found in tap water samples are residues of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), nylon and polyethylene (PE) that are used to make bottles, bottle caps, shopping bags, straws and fishing nets, Yang said.

In the seawater samples, they found between 1,000 and 18,500 pieces of microplastics per kiloliter of water, and 26 to 2,400 pieces per kilogram of beach sand, Yang said, adding that most are residues of polypropylene (PP), PE and polystyrene (PS) that are used to make microbeads in cosmetics, disposable tableware and containers.

The survey also found between 1.2 and 2 pieces of microplastics per gram of mussels, 0.7 to 5.2 pieces per gram of wild oyster, 0.2 to 3.5 pieces per gram of farmed oyster, 3.1 pieces per gram of scallop and 0.2 pieces per gram of clam, the latter two without ranges as there were only two polluted samples, he said.

The testing results were moderate compared with those in other nations, Yang said, but added that surveys in Germany usually show lower levels of microplastics in water because the country seems to consume fewer single-use plastics.

While the health risk of microplastics is not yet confirmed, people are advised to avoid using disposable plastic products, laboratory director Yen Chuen-lan (顏春蘭) said, adding that bottled water might contain more plastic debris as foreign studies have indicated.

The agency and eight local environmental groups in February established a marine waste disposal platform and launched a series of action plans to reduce the use of disposable plastic straws, bottles and tableware until 2030, EPA Deputy Minister Chan Shun-kuei (詹順貴) said, calling on people to reduce plastic trash at their sources.

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