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WHO Says Microplastics in Drinking Water Present 'Low' Risk

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The WHO stressed that more research is needed on the potential health risks of microplastic ingestion. luchschen / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The UN's health agency on Thursday said that microplastics contained in drinking water posed a "low" risk at their current levels.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) — in its first report on the potential health risks of microplastic ingestion — also stressed more research was needed to reassure consumers.


The report sums up a small but growing number of scientific studies on the subject and draws its conclusions from them.

Microplastics arise when man-made materials degrade into tiny particles. While the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration classifies them as any type of plastic fragment of less than 5 millimeters (about one-fifth of an inch), most human health concerns are focused on far smaller particles.

More Research Needed

The report's authors concluded that research should focus on chemical additives in plastic and the effects of microplastics small enough to enter tissues.

Most plastic particles in water are more than 150 micrometers in diameter and are excreted from the body. But, the report said, "smaller particles are more likely to cross the gut wall and reach other tissues."

"For these smallest size particles, where there is really limited evidence, we need to know more about what is being absorbed, the distribution and their impacts," said one of the authors, Jennifer De France.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DW.

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