Tap water from cities across the world seen to contain large amounts of plastic fibres

Tap water in cities across the world from New York to Delhi, has been found to contain massive amounts of plastic fibres, according to original research by Orb Media, a nonprofit digital newsroom in Washington, DC.

Working with researchers at the State University of New York and the University of Minnesota, Orb tested 159 samples of drinking water from cities and towns on five continents.

Microscopic plastic fibres were seen in 83 per cent of the samples, including tap water from the US Capitol complex, Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington, DC, and the Trump Grill in New York.

According to researchers, if synthetic fibres are in tap water they are also likely in foods prepared with water, such as bread, pasta, soup and baby formula.

''This should knock us into our senses,'' Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said in a written statement. ''We knew that this plastic is coming back to us through our food chain. Now we see it is coming back to us through our drinking water. Do we have a way out?'' Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, will launch an initiative against plastic waste later this year.

Though presence of microscopic plastic pollution in the world's oceans, freshwater, soil and air has been established through several studies, this is the first study to show plastic contamination in tap water from sources around the world, according to Orb.

The US tops the contamination rate, at 94 per cent, with plastic fibres found in tap water sampled at sites, including Congress buildings, the US Environmental Protection Agency's headquarters, and Trump Tower in New York. The next highest rates were seen with Lebanon and India.

The lowest contamination rate was seen in the UK, Germany and France, but it was still 72 per cent and the average number of fibres found in each 500ml sample ranged from 4.8 in the US to 1.9 in Europe.