Uganda grapples with high fibre content in water sources

Thursday September 28 2017

A National Water and Sewerage Corporation

A National Water and Sewerage Corporation station in Uganda. PHOTO FILE | NATION 

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A recent global study on drinking water, whose results are meant to show the consequences of plastic use by humans, shows that most of the contamination found in tap and deionised water (mineral water) is as a result of synthetic fibres, from items like the clothes we wear.

Uganda is one of the countries in the world where scientists found the highest concentration of fibres.

The study done by Orb Media, a nonprofit digital newsroom working with researchers at the State University of New York and the University of Minnesota, tested 159 samples from Uganda, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, the US, Ecuador and other European countries.

Of the 26 tap water samples picked from Kampala, 81 per cent were found to have been contaminated with plastic particles.

Samuel Apedel, public relations manager at the National Water and Sewerage Corporation, says that the scientists found many sources of fibre, including sweaters.

Dan Morrison from Orb Media said the presumed sources of plastic fibres that contaminate water bodies are synthetic textiles like polyester, acrylic and other things like carpeting and upholstery.

It is such particles that were found in tap water and some mineral water samples from across the globe.

“Plastic seems to have invaded our environment, as you can inhale it from the air, eating sea food, drinking water and the air conditioning,” says Apedel.

Tap water supplied by NWSC is among the samples from different places that was found to be contaminated by plastic particles.

At 94 per cent, plastic contamination was highest in the US and Lebanon, followed by New Delhi, where contamination stood at 82 per cent.

The least contamination was in Europe where plastic particles were found in 72 per cent of the water samples, followed by Jakarta at 76 per cent and Ecuador’s Quito at 75 per cent.
The study found that the amount of plastic particles found in water samples averaged 4.34 per litre. These particles are consumed in different beverages such as coffee, tea or juice.

The study recommends that further research is done to find out the effects of consuming such plastic particles in beverages, as well as for comparison within regions. The study also recommends that research should be conducted to determine how, and at what point, water sources get contaminated.

Without this data, Mr Morrison says that any initiative, including the ban of plastic packaging being implemented in East Africa, is commendable. He says that these initiatives help reduce contamination in the environment.