Chennai: The threat of microplastics, the invisible small fragments of plastic is looming large as they were detected in groundwater in several locations in South Chennai, including places like Velachery and Pallikaranai.
Researchers from Anna University have confirmed the infiltration of microplastics into the groundwater. They took samples from various water sources, including bore wells, open wells and lakes in several areas in South Chennai.
“During the study, we found micro-level particles, including microplastics in all water sources. For one-litre sample of water we found as many as 20 micro particles,” N Gopi, an associate professor from the Department of Textile Technology, Anna University said.
The microplastics found in these areas include Polystyrene, Polypropylene and Polyethylene and Polyester.
The plastic wastes and polythene covers could be the source for microplastics. “These plastic materials after degradation settle on the ground as plastic fragments. From there it might have infiltrated and contaminated the groundwater,” Gopi said.
Microplastics are not visible to the naked eye. Their presence in groundwater comes as a surprise for the researchers. “Normally, the plastics were dumped on the surface. So, surface water could have been contaminated. But, we are surprised to find microplastics in groundwater,” said Professor S. Srinivasalu, Director, Institute for Ocean Management, Anna University.
The plastics have been dumped in the ground layer by layer. “During the monsoon and floods, the plastic fragments could have been taken from one place to another. In the process, it could have contaminated open wells and bore wells,” he explained.
The scientists said the plastic wastes dumped alongside the Adyar River and the dumping yard in Perungudi could have contaminated the groundwater in South Chennai. “The microplastics are more as the samples move closer to the river and dumping yard,” Professor Srinivasalu said.
They also found microplastics in drinking water distributed through water tankers and their water sources in Pallikaranai. When the water contaminated with microplastics is heated, at 100 degrees Celsius, it would release a toxic substance 'dioxin' (a carcinogen) that dissolves in the water....