Drinking water in Johannesburg and Tshwane is polluted with microplastics, a new study has found.
Substantial amounts of microplastics – bits of plastics less that 5mm in size – were found in the tap water in both cities, as well as in rivers in Gauteng and in borehole water in the North West province.
But while the people of Johannesburg and Tshwane have been drinking microplastics in their tap water, the health effects are unknown.
The study – one of the first to assess the level of microplastic pollution in South Africa's freshwater rather than in its marine environment – was commissioned by the Water Research Commission and carried out by researchers at North-West University.
'It might be benign, and it might not be'
Professor Henk Bouwman, one of the researchers, said while humans and animals had evolved to deal with particle pollution entering our bodies over millions of years, plastic particles were new in our lives.