The World Health Organisation (WHO) says microplastics larger than 150 micrometres are not likely to be absorbed in the human body, but more research is needed into how human exposure to microplastics impacts on health.
Their first report into the evidence of microplastics in the water cycle (including both tap and bottled drinking-water and its sources) found that most microplastics pass through the body without harming it.
However, they did suggest that very small microplastic particles including in the nano-size range may be absorbed into the body, although the data is ‘extremely limited.’
They would like to see standard measures for measuring microplastic particles in water and more studies on the sources and occurrence of microplastics in freshwater. They also call for more research into how successful different water treatment processes are at filtering microplastics out.
Dr Maria Neira, director, Department of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health, at WHO said: ‘We urgently need to know more about the health impact of microplastics because they are everywhere – including in our drinking-water,
‘Based on the limited information we have, microplastics in drinking water don’t appear to pose a health risk at current levels. But we need to find out more. We also need to stop the rise in plastic pollution worldwide.’
In June, a World Wildlife Fund study found that humans could be ingesting five grams of plastic every week because of polluted water.
No Plastic in Nature: Assessing Plastic Ingestion from Nature to People combined data from over 50 studies on the ingestion of microplastics by people and researchers said the findings are an important step towards understanding the impact of plastic pollution on humans.
The study, which was commissioned by the WWF and carried out by University of Newcastle, Australia, suggests people are consuming about 2000 tiny pieces of plastic every week. That’s approximately 21 grams a month, just over 250 grams a year.
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