WHO calls for more research on microplastics in drinking water

28 August 2019

The World Health Organization (WHO) calls for a further assessment of microplastics in the environment and their potential impacts on human health, following the release of an analysis of current research related to microplastics in drinking-water – see press release, and the report.

In its first report on the issue, the WHO found that microplastics in drinking water do not appear to pose a health risk at current levels as larger particles, and most smaller ones, pass through the body without being absorbed. But it said the findings were based on "limited information" as it called for greater research on the issue.The report states that conventional treatment, when optimized to produce treated water of low turbidity, can remove particles smaller than a micrometre through processes of coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation/flotation and filtration. Advanced treatment can remove smaller particles.Routine monitoring of microplastics in drinking-water is not recommended at this time, as there is no evidence to indicate a human health concern. More research is needed to better understand the occurrence of microplastics in the environment and in media that may result in human exposure.

This report on the health consequences of microplastics is likely to be the first of many.