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Ganga River Water Choked With Microplastics: What to Know

The concentration of microplastics in the river Ganga were found to be highest in samples collected from Varanasi.

Updated
Health News
3 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Microplastics polluting river Ganga: Study conducted by Toxic Link</p></div>
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Remember 'nature is healing'? The posts of flora and fauna thriving, pollution receding, and air clearing flooding our timelines when COVID lockdowns were first imposed?

With human activity going back to stretching to its full length, this healing has fast been undone.

Pollution levels are just as bad as they ever were, and our rivers are testament to this.

According to a new study conducted by Toxic Links, we can now add microplastics to the long list of pollutants plaguing the river Ganga.

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What the Study Found

The study by the Delhi-based NGO Toxics Link was conducted on 5 river water samples collected from Haridwar, Kanpur and Varanasi, all of which were found to be heavily polluted with microplastics.

The samples were found to be polluted with multiple kinds of plastic, with the highest concentration being found at Varanasi.

Here are some key findings of the study:

  • Plastic pollutants mainly comprised of single- use and secondary plastic products.

  • Fragments were the predominant shape in all locations followed by film, fiber and beads.

  • Slight difference was observed in Kanpur as fibers were more abundant than films

  • Black and brown colored particles were found to be more in number followed by colored particles in all the three locations.

  • Dominance of black colored particles suggests its origin from abrasion of tires.

  • Several types of rubbers (butadiene, polyisoprene, natural rubber) were abundantly found in the river

  • 40 different types of polymers were found during analysis

  • Resins like EVOH, Polyacetylene, PIP, PVC and PVAL were predominantly found in all the three locations.

How polluted is the river Ganga with microplastics?

  • The number of MPs detected in the surface water of river Ganga in Varanasi was (2.42±0.405 MPs/m3) , the highest among the three spots.

The concentration of microplastics was found to be particularly high in the downstream river from Varanasi to Haridwar.
  • The number of MPs detected in surface water in Kanpur was (2.16±0.500 MPs/m3)

  • Haridwar resulted in the lowest number of MPs/m3 (1.30±0.518).

  • The most frequent size range observed in all the samples was <300µm

The ramifications of microplastics in the river–which is the main source of water for settlements along the banks–can be grave.

Although the extent of damage that ingesting microplastics can do is still unknown, in a previous article, FIT has spoken about how research has shown it can cause oxidative damage that leads to a greater risk of cancer.

What to Know About Microplastics

Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastic, typically less than 5 mm in length.

They are recognized as a major source of marine pollution of significant concern, due to their persistence, ubiquity and toxic potential.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>What is microplastic?</p></div>

What is microplastic?

(Photo: FIT)

How do microplastics reach the ocean?

The plastic products, industrial and religious waste wrapped in plastic bags, released or dumped in the river break down and are eventually reduced to microparticles.

Water from these rivers and sewages then transport large quantities downstream into the ocean which is the ultimate sink of all plastics being used by humans.

“Essentially all along microplastics are flowing into the river system. It does reflect or suggest a direct linkage between the poor state of both solid and liquid waste management; hence it is critically important to initiate steps to remediate it."
Priti Mahesh, Chief Coordinator at Toxics Link, in a press statement

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