Khezyll Galvan

With standard face masks being hypothesized as the main contributor, microplastics have been detected in the country’s largest lake, Laguna de Bay, as concluded in a study conducted by students and faculty from Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT).

Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Cellona/ABS-CBN News

A total of 12 types of microplastics were found, with 30% of them testing positive for traces of polypropylene plastic products, mostly in the form of blue particles found in face masks and plastic packaging. Some plastics were identified to be from plastic bags, storage containers, and parts of personal care products.

“It’s possible na maraming mga blue na himulmol. We are hypothesizing na posibleng ang iba ay galing sa ating mga sinusuot na mask,” MSU-IIT professor and study co-lead Dr. Hernando Bacosa said.

The study noted that Laguna’s surface water and Rizal waters are contaminated with microplastic particles, with 10 microplastics per cubic meter being recorded. 

Hence, Bascosa highlighted the potential menace or hazards of these particles to water animals and humans who have access to this water for consumption. If fishes and other animals ingest these particles, they may experience digestive system issues, as the particles won’t break down in their system. While for humans, if exposed to and consumed to these particles, may experience organ distress and damage in the long run that can lead to severe symptoms. 

The contamination of Laguna Lake raises concerns about decreasing water quality and health risks for the surrounding city areas, as the lake serves as a significant water source for about 9% of Metro Manila and Cavite.

The study attributed the abundance of microplastics to “intensive anthropogenic activities” in all sites where intensive human activities are evident at Laguna Lake. Such activities include but are not limited to, household wastes, chemical industries effluents, and economic activities. 

On the other hand, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has not established any standard for identifying microplastic levels in water. Additionally, the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) has not assessed any aforementioned findings of the university-studied research.

“Ito ang problema, wala tayong standard. Microplastic is not part of water quality standards. Hindi siya katulad ng nitrates, phosphates, ng heavy metals kasi nasa standard natin ‘yun… Yung sa microplastics, we cannot say if it is alarming or not but definitely, yung ating finding it says this is higher than other lakes sa Italy, China,” Bacosa said in a GMA interview.

Nonetheless, another study co-lead Cris Gel Loui Arcadio emphasized the importance of discovering this issue for the first time and addressing its risks promptly, as microplastics are particles that do not belong in the water, and that it would be alarming if these will sink at the bottom part of the lake.