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California to start testing drinking water for microplastics

California water regulators have made history by being the first in the world to approve guidelines for testing drinking water for microplastics.

The State Water Resources Control Board unanimously agreed on testing water supplies for microplastics over four years, requiring up to 30 suppliers to start quarterly testing from 2023.

Microplastics, shed from various plastic products, have now been found in remote areas of the world and inside animal and human bodies, from fresh snow in Antarctica to human placentas.

The move by California follows years of research into how the nano-sized plastic particles affect our health, with testing to begin with source waters and not water found in people’s taps.

‘There’s no other place in the world — literally in the world — that has standardized methods for how you do this or has a monitoring program to look at drinking water,’ Steve Weisberg, executive director of the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, told CalMatters.

In 2018, the state passed a law requiring four years of testing to find out how pervasive microplastics are in drinking water and to help establish guidelines for safe drinking water.

So far, research has shown microplastics could cause a variety of health issues, such as affecting hormone levels and sperm count.

Microplastics have also been found deep in people’s lungs, which scientists believe could be hazardous to human health.

Initially, a year-long pilot will take place to test sampling methods and provide training, followed by two-year phases of monitoring.

Monitoring locations will be chosen after a public consultation takes place this year.

A variety of water providers have been chosen to take part, including the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, supplying 19 million people, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Photo by Imani

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