Contamination with invisible fibers of microplastics affects some 83 percent of urban tap water worldwide, reaching 94 percent in the United States and 72 percent in Europe, according to a report published on Wednesday.
The study by U.S.-based investigative journalism group Orb found "previously unknown plastic contamination in the tap water of cities around the world."
It said the research, conducted with a public health expert from the University of Minnesota, showed that "from the halls of the U.S. Capitol to the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda, women, children, men, and babies are consuming plastic with every glass of water."
More than 80 percent of samples collected on five continents tested positive for the plastic microfibers.
Environmental campaigners Greenpeace said the reported contamination of tap water was "yet another unseen symptom of the ability of plastic pollution to get absolutely everywhere."
"This should knock us into our senses," said Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and founder of the Grameen Bank microcredit network.
"We knew that this plastic is coming back to us through our food chain," the report quoted Yunus as saying.
"Now we see it is coming back to us through our drinking water. Do we have a way out?"
The report, "Invisibles: The Plastic inside us," highlights possible solutions including "waste to energy" programs to turn plastic into fuel, improving design to allow better recycling of plastic packaging materials, and developing new materials that don't produce microfibers.
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