Notes from the trail: The menace of micro-plastics

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It wasn’t until I came North that I learned the environmental costs of bottled water; whether flown in from overseas or trucked half-way across the country. It was standard fare at any conference despite the fact that the Northwest Territories has the safest drinking water anywhere in the world. But I think that is changing, as people recognize the harmful health and environmental problems with plastic water bottles.

Now we’ve found out that it is not only harmful for the environment, it is bad for our health. Each one of those bottles has enough extra micro-plastics to eventually cause heart or liver disease, birth defects and cancer. Yet we are sold a product that is too often falsely advertised as being not only good for us; but the more we drink, the better.

The alarms were first raised about its potential dangers a few years back with studies suggesting bottled water contained micro-plastics and other toxins which either came from the bottle itself or the lid which dripped them into the water when the bottles were cracked open.

These contaminants can also leak into bottles of water that have been exposed to the sun causing the plastic to break down and or from bends in the plastic when it was crushed or folded.

No matter how it got there, evidence suggests that while most of us are now ingesting micro-plastics as a matter of course in our everyday food intake, those who drink bottled water are ingesting considerably more than people who drink tap water. People who drink bottled water, then, for health reasons have been misled.

Wikimedia Commons photo
Marine litter on the north Norwegian coast. Most of us are ingesting some level of microplastics in our regular diet, columnist Nancy Vail writes.

In humans, as mentioned above, exposure to micro-plastics which have their origins in fossil fuels, have been linked to chronic diseases, including diabetes and asthma in addition to kidney, liver and heart disease.

Animal studies suggest in utero exposure can ultimately impair development of the brain and immune system, the effects of which could be passed down to future generations.

As bad as bottled water is for your health, it is even worse for the environment, an estimated 270,000 bottled water containers are ending up in the NWT landfills every year. Last year it was estimated that one million plastic water bottles were turning up in landfills around the world every minute which is 93 per cent of all water bottles sold. The bottles do not lend themselves well to recycling so they end up in dumps where they are often burned releasing toxins into the air or are left to breakdown into smaller particles called micro-plastics.

Perhaps this is why we see them piling up or burned in third world countries or in photos taken on the ocean floors where they kill the fish either through the toxins they release or by the fish consuming them.

And while you may be trying to save the environment by refilling your plastic water bottle with tap water, sorry, but evidence now suggests that water too will be contaminated by micro-plastics from the container.

Bottled water is bad news.

By drinking what has been naturally gifted to us by the creator, we learn to better appreciate, respect and take care of our earth. It is all connected.

Our water comes from the purest source in the world, is carefully tested and monitored and is by far, safer to drink than any product sold on the market. Drinking tap water here saves you, the landfills and the planet.

If you are planning an event, contact Ecology North who will provide reusable water jugs and buy only stainless steel water bottles that can be reused.

I believe that healing the planet will take a concerted effort by all of us and it is by simple actions such as this – turning away from bottled water and single-use plastics, that we can have an impact. We don’t need Mohammad to move a mountain; we just need a whole lot of people doing small right things.

Postscript: “I think that we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world and many of us, what we’re guilty of is an egocentric worldview. A belief that we are the centre of the universe.” Joaquin Phoenix

 

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