Microplastics are “everywhere”, no risk to human health just yet

Microplastics on a human finger (Photo: The Daily Star)

Tiny plastic pollutants have infiltrated nearly every aspect of human life, the World Health Organisation (WHO) finds.

Frequently, microplastics are defined as less than five millimetres long, according to WHO.

“Microplastics have been found in marine settings… food, the air and potable water.”

⁠— the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday, August 22

The WHO, which released its findings into the effects of microplastics on human health on Thursday, August 22, notes that while the tiny particles can be found just about everywhere, they are yet to pose a direct threat at this time.

The WHO reported that the study was done to establish the impacts microplastics could pose to humans – specifically, in the consumption of tap and bottled drinking water.

The WHO noted that “a number of key knowledge gaps” were identified from the study but gave recommendations with respect to the monitoring and management of all plastics in the environment, “and to better assess human health risks and inform appropriate management actions.”

“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 Director

“Microplastics in drinking water don’t appear to pose a health risk at current levels. But we need to find out more,” said WHO Director, Dr. Maria Neira.

Dr. Neira called for greater research to be done as based on its preliminary findings, microplastics have been found in marine settings, waste and freshwater, food, the air and potable water; both bottled and from a tap.

Director of the World Health Organisation, Dr. Maria Neira (Photo: YouTube)

“We urgently need to know more about the health impact of microplastics because they are everywhere – including in our drinking water,” Dr. Neira argued further.

According to the WHO’s findings, if one drinks water with microplastics larger than the average cell, these particles are unlikely to be absorbed in the body.

Absorption of microplastic particles “including in the nano-size range may, however, be higher”, the WHO report continued, before cautioning that available data in this “emerging area” is extremely limited.

Head of the Department of Public Health at the WHO, Jennifer de France, warned that that bottled water “in general did contain higher particle numbers”.

She however cautioned against jumping to conclusions, owing to the lack of available data.