The World Health Organization (WHO) says Micro plastics in drinking water do not appear to pose a health risk at current levels.
In its first report on the issue, the WHO found that larger particles, and most smaller ones, pass through the body without being absorbed. But said the findings were based on “limited information” as it called for greater research on the issue.
The report says Microplastics, is defined as small (less than 5mm in length) pieces of any kind of plastic debris, have been found in rivers, lakes, drinking water supplies, and in bottled water.
What’s the health Implication for Human?
In its first ever report on the issue, the WHO says microplastics do not appear to pose a health risk at current levels, but adds that much more research is needed.
Proper studies into plastics in water only really began in the last couple of years, so the evidence available so far is limited.
What is more, the studies undertaken were not standardized, with different researchers using different filters to assess the number of plastic particles present in different water sources.
“To say one source of water has 1000 micro particles per litre and another has only one, could simply be dependent on the filter size used,” explained the WHO’s Dr Bruce Gordon. “We’re basically at a point where the study methods were quite weak.”
however, Dr Gordon says ‘’the available research should be “pretty reassuring” for human consumers. The WHO says the evidence suggests that all larger plastic particles, and most of the smaller ones, simply pass through the body without being absorbed at all.
What should be done?
Proper waste water treatment, involving the removal of faecal content and chemicals, should also remove more than 90% of microplastics. That is why the WHO’s recommendations in the wake of this report do not include routine checks for microplastics in water. Instead, the WHO wants drinking water suppliers and regulators to concentrate on “known risks”.
“Two billion people drink water that is faecally contaminated,” said Dr Gordon. “And that causes one million deaths a year. That has got to be the focus.” the WHO views plastic pollution as an urgent problem. It advises reducing the use of plastics wherever possible, and improving recycling programmes.
How limited is the research?
The key message of this initial report is really how much we don’t know about the consequences of plastic pollution.
Some studies suggest that bottled water contains more microplastics than tap water, but it is not clear why. It could be a contaminated source water, but it could also be the plastic polymers used to make the bottles and bottle caps.