The Stream, September 7: Plastic Particles Discovered in Tap Water Around the World

The Global Rundown

Microscopic plastic particles are discovered in tap water around the world, with the highest rate of contamination in the United States. Stores in southern Florida struggle to keep bottled water stocked as residents prepare for Hurricane Irma. China plans to expand its agricultural use of polyethylene, a plastic film that raises crop yields but is harmful to the environment. Outbreaks of diarrhea, malaria, and dengue hit South Asia after the region’s worst floods in a decade. Guangzhou port, southern China’s largest coal hub, bans foreign coal imports.

“Our Florida stores aren’t all out of water. Some may sell through quickly, but our merchandising and supply chain teams are working around the clock to continually replenish them.” –Matthew Harrigan, a Home Depot spokesman, in reference to the skyrocketing demand for bottled water in southern Florida as Hurricane Irma heads toward the state. Walmart, Target, and other major retailers throughout the region have repeatedly sold out of the commodity and are scrambling to restock shelves. Hurricane Irma is forecasted to make landfall in Florida this weekend. The Street

By The Numbers

94 percent Contamination rate of plastic fibers found in tap water in the United States, based on samples collected as part of an investigation for Orb Media. Water samples were gathered from over a dozen other nations as well. In total, 83 percent of the samples contained plastic particles. Scientists believe that the findings underscore the extent of microplastic contamination in the environment. The Guardian

26,944 Cases of illness reported in Nepal as outbreaks of diarrhea, malaria, and dengue flair following extensive flooding in South Asia. An estimated 13,000 people are sick in Bangladesh. Health officials are carefully monitoring flood-affected areas in hopes of preventing further illness. Reuters

Science, Studies, And Reports

China will continue the use of polyethylene, a thin plastic sheet used to boost crop yield, despite environmental ramifications. Currently, 1.45 million metric tons of polyethylene cover 20 million hectares of farmland in China, increasing crop production by up to 30 percent. However, the plastic sheets are not biodegradable, and studies have shown that they release potentially cancer-causing toxins into the soil. Bloomberg

On The Radar

The largest coal transport hub in southern China, Guangzhou port, unexpectedly halted foreign coal imports according to customs authorities. Guangzhou port has 14 coal berths and handles up to 60 million tonnes of shipments in a year. The move is seen as an attempt to cut back on pollution caused by coal-burning, although it is unclear how long the import ban will last. Reuters

In context: China’s early pivot away from carbon.