Global & Disaster Medicine

Microplastics: Another cause for concern in this troubled world?

WHO Microplastics Document 2019

“……..Background
Over the past few years, several studies have reported the presence of microplastics in treated tap and bottled water, raising questions and concerns about the impact that microplastics in drinking-water might have on human health. This report, which contains a summary of the evidence, key findings, recommendations and research needs, is the World  Health Organization’s (WHO) first effort to examine the potential human health risks associated with exposure to microplastics in the environment. The focus of this report is on the potential human health impacts of exposure to microplastics through drinking-water. However, brief information on other routes of human exposure is included for context.
This report was informed by literature reviews undertaken on the occurrence of microplastics in the water cycle, the potential health impacts from microplastic exposure and the removal of microplastics during wastewater and drinking-water treatment. Throughout the report, WHO experts examined the quality and relevance of the studies they found. The report was also informed by reviews conducted by several major entities; these are referenced throughout the report.
As a category, microplastics encompass a wide range of materials with different chemical compositions, shapes, colours, sizes and densities. There is no scientifically-agreed definition of microplastics, although most definitions focus on composition and size.
………

 

“……Recommendations
Routine monitoring of microplastics in drinking-water is not recommended at this time, as there is no evidence to indicate a human health concern. Concerns over microplastics in drinking-water should not divert resources of water suppliers and regulators from removing microbial pathogens, which remains the most significant risk to human health from drinking-water along with other chemical priorities. As part of water safety planning, water suppliers should ensure that control measures are effective and should optimize water treatment processes for particle removal and microbial safety, which will incidentally improve the removal of microplastic particles.
However, for researchers, it would be appropriate to undertake targeted, welldesigned and quality-controlled investigative studies to better understand the sources and occurrence of microplastics in fresh water and drinking-water, the efficacy of different treatment processes and combinations of processes, and the significance
Executive summary xiii
of the potential return of microplastics to the environment from treatment waste streams including the application of sludge biosolids to agricultural land.
Measures should also be taken to better manage plastics and reduce the use of plastics where possible, to minimize plastic and microplastic pollution despite the low human health risk posed by exposure to microplastics in drinking-water, as such actions can confer other benefits to the environment and human well-being. 


Research needs
To better assess human health risks and inform management actions, a number of research gaps need to be filled. With respect to exposure, there is a need to better understand microplastics occurrence throughout the water supply chain, using quality assured methods to determine the numbers, shapes, sizes, composition and sources of microplastics and to better characterize the effectiveness of water treatment. Research is also needed to better understand the significance of treatment-related waste streams as contributors of microplastics to the environment.
With respect to potential health effects, quality-assured toxicological data are needed on the most common forms of plastic particles relevant for human health risk assessment. Further, a better understanding on the uptake and fate of microplastics and nanoplastics following ingestion is needed.
Finally, given that humans can be exposed to microplastics through a variety of environmental media, including food and air, a better understanding of overall exposure to microplastics from the broader environment is needed.


Leave a Reply

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives

Admin