May 23, 2024

Southern California has been approved by the State Water Resources Control Board with the collaboration of the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project for testing of microplastics in drinking water as of Sept. 27.

Microplastics are tiny particles with chemical compositions that are nearly impossible to break down that can endanger one’s health.Southern California is the first place in the world to be approved for this testing.

Dr. Lindsay Fahnestock, professor of environmental health and adviser for the public health club, stated that “unfortunately, we do not know all the ramifications and risks of consuming microplastics in water, but we can predict some of the effects based on physiology and some of the previous research that has been done.”

Based on peer-reviewed studies, scientists theorize that while some of the microplastics will be excreted naturally from our bodies, there can be other risks.

“They can potentially get lodged in our intestinal tracks, or even make it into our bloodstreams, where further risk can occur,” Fahnestock said.

Understanding the harm of microplastics is a huge part of the enforcement of this project not only to humans, but also to all that encounter the drinking water. Wildlife, for instance, is another group affected by the pollutants.

“There are other portions of our population that are more sensitive to contaminants in drinking water,” said Dr. Jacob Lanphere, professor of environmental science. “Those individuals may not have a voice nor have the ability to even know what is harming them.”

After years of debate and research, the program is now officially set into action. The project is set to take place over the next four years starting in fall 2023.

The testing itself will focus on large water sources, including those from which our drinking water originates. Many of these sources are water companies known to provide people with their daily water.
Although the exact companies are yet to be announced, they are being chosen based on size and current treatment of the water.

“They have to do more survey and more public opinion on this project to evaluate people’s willingness to drink the water after this project statewide,” said Hyun-Woo (Andrew) Park, professor of biology.

Fahnestock also emphasized the hold microplastics have in our world today.

“I don’t know if we can ultimately decrease our risks from microplastics by 100%,” Fahnestock said. “However, we can decrease them as best we can. We need to find out the main contributors first. I think if we do this, we will have a better understanding of how and where microplastics are more concentrated and therefore attack the issue at the source or try to implement better filtration protocols in that area. I think we will at least see significant decreases in microplastics that way.”

Overall, this program is a step toward improving the health of the environment and those who interact with it by monitoring a pollutant in the California water supply.

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