Chennai, Dec 8 (PTI) Prominent and unnoticed sources of microplastics in residential buildings are a source of microplastic pollution, a study by the IIT Madras said on Friday.

It identified their transportation, transformation, and toxicity effects on aquatic organisms and human beings.

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"This review is the first of its kind to attempt to comprehensively explore the diverse activities and products within residential buildings, collectively identifying them as significant contributors to the generation of microplastics," the institute said in a release here.

Municipal waste stood out as a major source among the factors contributing to the spread of microplastics in the environment. "Everyday household activities like washing dishes, doing laundry, taking showers, and using toilets all contribute to the production of municipal wastewater," the release added.

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For instance, dishwashing typically involves the use of plastic-based scouring pads, where the softer part of the sponge is composed of polyurethane (PU) and the attached mesh is made of polyethylene (PE). Over time, as the sponge gets worn out, the shedding of plastic material results in the creation of secondary microplastics, the review published in the journal: Environmental Science and Pollution Research (https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-023-26918-1), said.

The review was carried out by Angel Jessieleena, Kiruthika Eswari Velmaiel, Anju Anna John, and Prof Indumathi M Nambi from the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering Division, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras, and Sasikaladevi Rathinavelu from the Department of Biotechnology, IIT Madras.

According to Prof Indumathi Nambi, the escalating issue of plastic pollution demanded urgent attention and action. Current estimates suggest that between 4.88 to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic find their way into the ocean each year.

"Alarmingly, projections indicate that by 2050, the cumulative weight of plastics in our oceans could surpass the total biomass of fish,” Nambi claimed.

Laundry washing releases a significant quantity of microfibers into wastewater, while personal care products like shower gels, face cleansers, and toothpaste contain deliberate microplastic additives known as microbeads.

Additionally, items such as face masks and synthetic indoor fabrics, including carpets, contribute to environmental and indoor pollution, posing potential harm to both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, as well as human and pet health.

The review suggested that source reduction is a vital consideration to combat microplastic pollution. Personal care products should be replaced with biodegradable materials, and the use of plastic-based products such as scouring pads needs to be reduced. Also, laundry machines should have highly efficient filters.

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