There are plastic particles in our water. They probably won’t hurt us, experts say, but we need to learn more about the smallest bits
Releasing a report about the potential health risks of microplastics in both tap and bottled water, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that while the risk is “low,” more research is needed to determine how ingesting them affects us.
“We urgently need to know more about the health impact of microplastics because they are everywhere—including in our drinking-water,” Dr. Maria Neira, WHO’s Director of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants, said in a statement.
Studies have shown microplastics can be found in both tap water and bottled water, resulting from plastic that makes its way into run-off and wastewater.
“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,” Neira said.
Most microplastics simply pass through the body, though the report noted that bits smaller than 150 micrometres can be absorbed into the body.
Since the report found that wastewater treatment removes 90% of all microplastics, the WHO hasn’t set up any new recommendations for water treatment plants to follow.
“Conventional drinking-water treatment can remove particles smaller than a micrometre,” the statement read. “A significant proportion of the global population currently does not benefit from adequate water and sewage treatment. By addressing the problem of human exposure to faecally contaminated water, communities can simultaneously address the concern related to microplastics.”
WHO is now recommending more research into how chemicals added to plastics impact our health after absorption in the gastrointestinal tract.