World Health Organization Releases “Microplastics in Drinking Water” Report

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a new report assessing microplastics in drinking water “Microplastics in Drinking Water.” The report is WHO’s first effort to evaluate human health risks that may be associated with microplastic exposure through drinking-water. The report, informed by literature reviews on microplastics in the water cycle, covers the ubiquitous occurrence of microplastics in the environment. The primary sources for water are surface runoff and wastewater effluent.

The study lists that potential human health risks from microplastics are based on: the physical hazard of the particles, chemicals, and microorganisms that could attach to them in biofilms. Based on limited evidence, the report finds that no data suggests overt health concerns related to particles.  The report finds a low health concern for exposure to chemicals and no evidence to suggest human health risk from microplastic biofilms.

Although more research is needed, overall recommendations from the report indicate that routine monitoring of microplastics in drinking water is not recommended currently, and resources should not be diverted from removal of microbial pathogens.