Microplastics in drinking water not a health risk for now

25 Août, 2019, 03:39 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • WHO says more research is needed to obtain a more accurate assessment of exposure to microplastics and their potential impacts on human health

While they don't appear to be a danger to humans at current levels, "we urgently need to know more about the health impact of microplastics because they are everywhere, including in our drinking water", said Maria Neira, Director of WHO's Department of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health. Industrial effluents, degraded plastic waste and atmospheric deposition are some other secondary sources of microplastics.

Today, microplastic research is in its infancy, but the results from WHO's report do highlight some interesting initial patterns.

"The key message for water authorities is that concerns over microplastics in drinking-water should not divert resources or attention away from the things which do present real public health risks in drinking water", says Stuart Khan, a civil and environmental engineer at the University of New South Wales who was not involved in the report. World Health Organization said that microplastics larger than 150 micrometres are not likely to be absorbed by the human body but said the chance of absorbing very small microplastic particles, including nano-sized plastics, could be higher, although it said data is limited.

Scientists expect the uptake of smaller particles to be low, but said the data relating to the absorption and distribution of nano-sized particles of plastic is extremely limited. There are studies that have shown the presence of as much as 1000 particles per litre of bottled water.

"But just because we're ingesting them doesn't mean we have a risk to human health", said Bruce Gordon, WHO's coordinator of water, sanitation and hygiene.

The authors said routine monitoring of microplastics in drinking water is not recommended because resources would be better spent on removing bacteria and viruses that are a far greater and proven risk.

Microplastics in water can harm your health.

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In the report, analysis of 259 bottles from 19 locations in nine countries across 11 different brands found an average of 325 plastic particles for every liter of water being sold.

Javier Mateo-Sagasta, of the International Water Management Institute, said: "This latest report only adds to the growing body of evidence that microplastics are a huge issue, both for our health and for the environment, and that this needs urgent addressing".

In a report published Wednesday, the United Nations health agency said the minuscule plastics are "ubiquitous in the environment" and have been found in drinking water, including both tap and bottled, most likely as the result of treatment and distribution systems.

And they say the disposal of plastics into the environment should be reduced anyway.

"Rather than focus on one route of exposure, a broader understanding of the wider sources and interactions of microplastics within the environment is needed", said Horton. "And that causes one million deaths a year".

"Although wastewater effluent is recognized as a key source of microplastic pollution in freshwater, pathogens and other chemicals associated with the lack of effective sewage treatment are of greater concern", the World Health Organization said.

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