WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are looking into the issue of micro and nanoplastics in water. A Senate Environment and Public Works Joint Subcommittee hearing took place Tuesday.

It follows a recent study by Rutgers and Columbia University researchers that concluded 240,000 pieces of microplastic can be found in an average liter of bottled water. 

What You Need To Know

  • Senators met during a hearing Tuesday to hear from experts about the presence of micro and nanoplastics in water

  •  Last month, a study found hundreds of thousands of the particles are in a typical liter of bottled water 

  •  Experts say clothing and 'fast fashion' contribute to the issue

"Like people shed skin cells, plastics shed particles of plastics," said Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley during Tuesday's hearing. 

Experts warned the tiny plastics may have harmful health effects. "There are about 13,000 different chemicals used during the manufacturing of various plastic products. Many of these are known to be carcinogens or endocrine disrupting chemicals," Penn State Behrend Director of Sustainability Sherri Mason testified. 

Many of the particles, experts say, come from an unexpected source: the clothes we wear.

"Potential solutions include requiring microfiber filters on washing machines," said Oregon State University Professor Susanne Brander.

Republicans at Tuesday's hearing thanked the witnesses for their research, but cautioned about placing regulatory burdens.

"As we're moving forward looking at microplastics, we have to be careful that we're not getting ahead of, as we would say, the science and burden these municipalities that are trying to meet today's regulations," said Senator Markwayne Mullin. 

The last major federal initiative against microplastics was in 2015 when former President Barack Obama signed a ban on microbead plastics in personal care and cosmetic products.