WHO calls for re-assessment of microplastics

By Maxwell Awumah, GNA

Ho, Sept 12,
GNA
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called 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 the
plastics in drinking-water.

The
Organisation also calls for a reduction in plastic pollution to benefit the
environment and reduce human exposure, according to its release copied to the
Ghana News Agency.

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.”

According to
the analysis, which summarises the latest knowledge on microplastics in
drinking-water, microplastics larger than 150 micrometres are not likely to be
absorbed in the human body and uptake of smaller particles is expected to be
limited. 

It said
absorption and distribution of very small microplastic particles including in
the nano size range may, however, be higher, although the data is extremely
limited.

It added
further that research was needed to obtain a more accurate assessment of
exposure to microplastics and their potential impacts on human health.

It said these
include developing standard methods for measuring microplastic particles in
water; more studies on the sources and occurrence of microplastics in fresh
water; and the efficacy of different treatment processes.

WHO recommends
that drinking-water suppliers and regulators prioritise removing microbial
pathogens and chemicals that were known risks to human health, such as those
causing deadly diarrhoeal diseases.

This has a
double advantage: wastewater and drinking-water treatment systems that treat
faecal content and chemicals are also effective in removing microplastics.

It said
wastewater treatment can remove more than 90 per cent of microplastics from
wastewater, with the highest removal coming from tertiary treatment such as
filtration.

It added that
conventional drinking-water treatment can remove particles smaller than a
micrometre. A significant proportion of the global population currently does
not benefit from adequate water and sewage treatment.

It said by
addressing the problem of human exposure to faecally contaminated water,
communities can simultaneously address the concern related to microplastics.

GNA

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