Get Started with a Free Water Consultation

A Closer Look at Microplastics in Water


Microplastics are just what they sound like: tiny plastic particles. They range in size from 5 millimeters (about .2 inches) at the largest to 1 nanometer (1 billionth of a meter) at the smallest. (Plastic particles smaller than 1 micrometer are called nanoplastics.)

Microplastics can be present almost everywhere — but could microplastic pollution impact your water quality, too?

According to recent research, these invisible particles could end up in your drinking glass (and even single-serve bottled water). While scientists are still learning what this means for human health, many people don’t want to wait for specific answers to take action. Instead, there’s growing interest in better drinking water quality – with help from filtration systems.

Let’s get a closer look at microplastics and what they mean for water everywhere.

Microplastics in Water: The Latest Research

Plastic pollution is hardly a new issue, but it’s beginning to take broader and more complicated forms — and that’s why microplastic contamination is such a concern.* Fortunately, some of the world’s top researchers are working hard to answer big questions.

Here are just a few key topics of study:

Microplastic Movement

One of the most important things to know about microplastic particles is how they get around. That’s because scientists have found them in almost everything, including:

  • Air
  • Water
  • Soil
  • Table salt
  • Almost every part of the body

So, where are all of these tiny particles coming from? Perhaps unsurprisingly, plastic pollution itself is often to blame: When larger plastics like water bottles degrade, they don’t decompose like other materials. Instead, they break into increasingly smaller parts until they’re nearly or entirely invisible.

But plastic pollution isn’t always as obvious as a bag or bottle. For example, cosmetic items tend to use plastic microbeads as exfoliants — and while you may not even know you’re using them, the planet pays the price.

Microplastic Measurements

A recent Columbia University study supported by the National Institutes of Health found that a single liter of bottled water (about 0.3 gallons) included around 240,000 microplastic particles. That’s up to 100 times more than earlier studies identified. Worse yet, opening and closing the plastic caps can lead to even more contamination.

But the study also specifies that each water sample was taken from store-bought bottled water brands. What if you don’t buy single-use water bottles?

Unfortunately, tap water isn’t immune to microplastic contamination, as research has confirmed the presence of these tiny particles in many environmental samples.

Impact on Human Health

Scientists don’t yet know any specific health risks from microplastic exposure. However, early studies have shown that impacts may reach nearly every part of the human body, including digestive, respiratory and immune systems. On top of that, these plastic particles can also absorb other pollutants like heavy metals and organic chemicals, leading to further issues.

Environmental Impact

Human health may still be under the microscope, but there’s not much question when it comes to the environment: Plastic pollution is bad news.

Here are just a few ways microplastics impact the natural world:

  • Species impact: This kind of pollution has been shown to affect a variety of species, including those that live under the surface — like earthworms, which play an important role in soil health and food production capabilities.
  • Spreading effects: The interconnectedness of nature means that high plastic exposure for just one species could quickly have far-reaching effects.
  • Reduced adaptability: Plastic-choked ecosystems may struggle to adapt to climate change and other fluctuations.
  • Shifting behavior: Plastic waste can complicate species relationships; for example, if prey populations die from microplastic ingestion, predators could starve. This leads to changed behaviors that can impact human activity and resources.

How To Remove Microplastics From Your Water

There’s still a lot to learn about microplastics. However, that doesn’t have to stop you from taking action to protect your drinking water quality.

When it comes to reducing your exposure to microplastic particles, start by avoiding all single-use plastic water bottles. They could be full of this contaminant — and on top of that, the bottles themselves might become even more microplastics later.

That means it’s time to turn on the tap. But remember, plastic waste can be in groundwater and surface water, too — and these are generally the sources of both city and well water.

Fortunately, reverse osmosis (RO) drinking water filtration systems can help. This is one of the best ways to ensure you get better, cleaner water right from the tap. With multiple filtration stages and processes, these systems can address a huge range of potential contaminants, including “forever chemicals” and trichloroethylene (TCE).

Why is RO filtration such a smart choice? It’s not just about addressing the microplastics themselves. Remember, every plastic particle could carry additional contaminants — and that’s not to mention separate possibilities in your water like chlorine, copper, microorganisms and even lead.

At the end of the day, water filtration puts you in control of what you drink (and what you don’t).

Improving and Protecting Your Water

For many people, reading about microplastics can raise a lot of questions. You may find yourself asking other water quality questions, wondering why the city doesn’t manage wells, whether your plumbing could cause contamination, or what other potential contaminants may not be regulated yet..

The good news is that you can take control of your home’s water. All you have to do is follow these simple steps:

#1: Learn

Congratulations — you’re already working on this one. Keep asking questions, doing research and making notes to learn about common and emerging water problems. Along the way, start paying attention to the taste, odor and appearance of your water, because these areas are sometimes the first to show symptoms.

Wondering what’s causing your water issues?
Try our Water Solutions Finder to learn more.

#2: Test

Research is great, but you’ll need a professional water test if you want personalized answers about your own water supply. A local expert can help you identify potential contaminants and hardness. They can also recommend the best water solutions for your home, budget and needs.

Although there are DIY tests available, these tend to be less comprehensive — and you have to interpret the results yourself.

#3: Filter

There are plenty of filtration systems to choose from. Some even have smart features that enable control and visibility right from your phone. Others might be specially designed for a particular problem — for example, the Aquasential® Smart High Efficiency Sulfur-Cleer® Water Filter.

#4: Soften

Filtration doesn’t address hard tap water, but a water softener can. These systems come in smart and salt-free varieties and may even include simple filtration mechanisms for issues like chlorine odors.

#5: Enjoy

Once everything is in place, your only job is to sit back and enjoy better water. If you notice any old issues coming back, that’s a sign that a quick fix may be in order — for example, maybe your water softener ran out of salt.

But what if you notice new problems? That might indicate a larger problem with city treatment, well pipes or even the original water supply. Start by checking for notifications or boil orders (which only cover municipal water) and then have a water test to find out what’s going on.

Stay Informed About Water Quality Questions

Microplastics may be a growing concern, but they’re not the only water problem you may have to contend with. Instead of worrying about one at a time, get a professional water test and rest assured that you have all the answers and recommendations you need.

Get started by scheduling your free, in-home water test and consultation.

*Contaminants may not be present in your water.

Find A Location Near Me


Schedule Your Free
In-Home Water Test

Get better water in your home by scheduling an appointment with your local Culligan Water Expert.

Our Products

blue wave
Water Softeners

Water Softeners

With any of our soft water systems, get more out of your water-using appliances while spending less on energy and detergent.

View Products

Water Delivery

Water Delivery

There’s never been a better time to enjoy the convenience of scheduled bottled water deliveries from the Culligan® Water Experts

View Products

Water Filtration Systems

Water Filtration Systems

Culligan's water filtration systems have improved water quality for thousands of families worldwide.

View Products