Microplastics in water pose low risk to health, says WHO

World | REUTERS 23 Aug 2019

Microplastics contained in drinking water pose a "low" risk to human health at current levels, but more research is needed to reassure consumers, the World Health Organization says.

Studies over the past year on plastic particles detected in tap and bottled water have sparked public concerns but the limited data appears reassuring, the UN agency said its first report on potential health risks associated with ingestion.

Microplastics enter drinking water sources mainly through run-off and wastewater effluent, the WHO said. Evidence shows that microplastics found in some bottled water seem to be at least partly due to the bottling process and/or packaging such as plastic caps, it said.

"The headline message is to reassure drinking water consumers around the world, that based on this assessment, our assessment of the risk is that it is low," Bruce Gordon of the WHO's department of public health, environmental and social determinants of health, said.

The WHO did not recommended routine monitoring for microplastics in drinking water. But research should focus on issues including what happens to chemical additives in the particles once they enter the gastrointestinal tract, it said.

The majority of plastic particles in water are larger than 150 micrometers in diameter and are excreted from the body, while "smaller particles are more likely to cross the gut wall and reach other tissues," it said.

Health concerns have centered around smaller particles.

Search Archive

Advanced Search
September 2019
S M T W T F S

Today's Standard



Yearly Magazine

Yearly Magazine