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Microplastic Removal from Drinking Water Using Point-of-Use Devices

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Researchers assess various filters in their efficacy of removing microplastics from drinking water. Point-of-use water filters were found to be most effective at removing microplastics when they were made with a physical filter membrane compared to activated carbon and ion exchange.

Abstract: The occurrence of microplastics in drinking water has drawn increasing attention due to their ubiquity and unresolved implications regarding human health. Despite achieving high reduction efficiencies (70 to >90%) at conventional drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs), microplastics remain. Since human consumption represents a small portion of typical household water use, point-of-use (POU) water treatment devices may provide the additional removal of microplastics (MPs) prior to consumption. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the performance of commonly used pour-through POU devices, including those that utilize combinations of granular activated carbon (GAC), ion exchange (IX), and microfiltration (MF), with respect to MP removal. Treated drinking water was spiked with polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) fragments, along with nylon fibers representing a range of particle sizes (30–1000 µm) at concentrations of 36–64 particles/L. Samples were collected from each POU device following 25, 50, 75, 100 and 125% increases in the manufacturer’s rated treatment capacity, and subsequently analyzed via microscopy to determine their removal efficiency. Two POU devices that incorporate MF technologies exhibited 78–86% and 94–100% removal values for PVC and PET fragments, respectively, whereas one device that only incorporates GAC and IX resulted in a greater number of particles in its effluent when compared to the influent. When comparing the two devices that incorporate membranes, the device with the smaller nominal pore size (0.2 µm vs. ≥1 µm) exhibited the best performance. These findings suggest that POU devices that incorporate physical treatment barriers, including membrane filtration, may be optimal for MP removal (if desired) from drinking water.

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