A baseline study on the prevalence of microplastics in South African drinking water: from source to distribution
Keywords:Freshwater, FTIR, FT-IR, Microplastics, potable water
Due to the worldwide increasing prevalence of microplastics in the aquatic environment, this study aimed to perform a screening of the source and drinking water of South Africa’s largest bulk drinking water supplier to determine the extent to which microplastics occur in the water. Source water samples, samples immediately after treatment, and samples in the distribution network (Johannesburg, Mabopane, Garankua and Pelindaba) were analysed. Microplastics concentrations in the source water ranged from 0.24 to 1.47 particles/L, immediately after treatment from 0.56 to 0.9 particles/L, and in the distribution network from 0.26 to 0.88 particles/L. Most of the microplastics found in the water were classified as ‘fragments’ and a few as ‘fibres’. The control sample (indicating contamination during sample preparation and analysis) showed 0.34 particles/L, which was higher than some of the samples taken, indicating very low microplastics concentrations in these samples. Little evidence was found that the drinking water treatment processes reduced the number of microplastics from the source to the final treated water. No evidence could be found that the pipes in the distribution network contribute to microplastics in the tap water. The most frequently found polymer in the samples was rubber. Based on mass, however, as a function of particle size and polymer density, ethylene-vinyl-acetate (a polymer commonly used as foam in sporting equipment and flip-flops) comprised 54% of the microplastics and polyethylene (standard and chlorinated) 25%.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Annelie Swanepoel, Hein du Preez, Henk Bouwman
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