Boiling Water Reduces Almost 90% of Microplastics

New research found that boiling water for 5 minutes reduced potentially harmful nano- and microplastics in hard water by up to 90% and soft water by up to 25%.

Scientists have found nano- and microplastics in everything from water bottles to human placentas. Despite their widespread distribution in the environment and the human body, the health impacts of these microscopic bits of plastic are unclear. Still, some research suggests that microplastics can lead to immune system problems, metabolic disorders, and specific types of cancer.

These potential health effects are why removing or reducing microplastics in food, water, and the environment is critical. But so far, scientists haven't figured out a simple and inexpensive method to accomplish this.

However, new research may have revealed a cost-effective and relatively easy way to reduce microplastics in drinking water.

The study, published on February 28 in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, found that boiling water for 5 minutes removed up to 90% of microplastics in hard water and up to 25% in soft water samples.

To conduct the research, the scientists added various amounts of nano- and microplastics to hard water samples that contained 300 mg of calcium carbonate per liter and soft water samples containing less than 60 mg.

They discovered that boiling the water produced a calcium carbonate buildup that trapped nano- and microplastics, including polystyrene, polyethylene, and polypropylene. The team could remove this microplastic-infused buildup by scrubbing the inside of the pot or kettle. Any remaining microplastics were removed by filtering the cooled water through a coffee filter.

Because soft water contains fewer minerals, microplastics have less calcium carbonate to bond to during the boiling process. This explains why boiling soft water only removed up to 25% of the plastics in the experiments.

"This simple boiling-water strategy can 'decontaminate' nano- and microplastics from household tap water and has the potential for harmlessly alleviating human intake of nano- and microplastics through water consumption," the study's authors wrote.

Aside from boiling water, a person can lower the amount of microplastics in drinking water by using water filtration systems. According to a 2023 study, systems that utilize membrane filtration with a small pore size may effectively reduce microplastics in household drinking water.

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