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WHO is reassuring about the effects of microplastics in drinking water

The World Health Organization estimates that current levels of microplastics in drinking water are not yet a health hazard, but experts remain cautious for the future.
In a report released Thursday, Aug. 22, the World Health Organization (WHO) provides a synthesis of the latest knowledge of microplastics in tap water and bottled water and its effects on human health.
"The key message is to reassure drinking water users around the world: according to this assessment, we believe the risk is low," said the coordinator of the Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Health Unit. WHO, Bruce Gordon, at a press conference. He said that the analysis of health risks related to microplastics focused on three aspects: the risk of ingestion, the chemical risks and the risks related to the presence of agglomerated bacteria (biofilm).

Few reliable studies

WHO insists that data on the presence of microplastics in drinking water are, for the moment, limited, with few reliable studies, and that these are difficult to compare, making it more difficult to 'results analysis. WHO therefore calls on researchers to conduct a more in-depth evaluation, using standardized methods.

In a statement, the UN agency specifies that microplastics larger than 150 microns are not in principle absorbed by the human body, and absorption of smaller particles "should be limited . "

It considers, on the other hand, that the absorption of very small microplastic particles, in particular of nanoparticles, "should be higher, even if the data on this subject are very limited" . "Microplastics in drinking water do not seem to pose health risks, at least at current levels. But we need to deepen the issue, " said the director of the Department of Public Health, WHO, Maria Neira, quoted in the statement.

"Stop the increase in plastic pollution"

The report warns of the dangers ahead: if plastic emissions in the environment continue at the current rate, microplastics could pose widespread risks to aquatic ecosystems within a century, which should not be without consequences on human health. "We need to address the rise in plastic pollution over the world" , said Ms. Neira.

Experts also stress the importance of wastewater treatment (fecal and chemical) which allows to remove more than 90% of microplastics present in these waters. Currently, a large part of the world's population does not yet benefit from adapted wastewater treatment systems, according to the WHO.

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