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Science News: Microplastics – Solving a tiny yet threatening issue

– K.J., Editor

Microplastics are microscopic-sized pieces of plastic waste that have been accumulating in drinking water sources, aquatic habitats such as oceans and rivers, and even inside our bodies. However, as microplastics pose an as yet undetermined risk to human and animal life, there is growing concern about the long-term consequences of microplastics in our environment. In response to this possible new threat, scientists around the globe are actively researching ways to remove microplastics from water.

One such study involves the use of ultrasound waves. Dr. Menake Piyasena and colleagues at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, New Mexico, USA, found that, by passing ultrasound waves through tubes containing contaminated water, smaller pieces of plastic (less than 180 microns) will move to the center while larger pieces will move to the walls of the tubes. Through repeated experiments, they are developing a fast and cost-effective way to remove microplastics from drinking water.

Although further research will be required before this technique can be applied to general use, it shows that hopefully one day, microplastics can be effectively removed from water, which will significantly reduce this threat to humankind. Until then, however, we should all be asking, “Do I have microplastics in my body, and if so, how are they affecting me?”

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