Plastic particles in drinking water present ‘low’ risk – WHO
Robie de Guzman • August 23, 2019 • 1239
Microplastics contained in drinking water pose a “low” risk to human health at current levels, but more research is needed to reassure consumers, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday (August 22).
Studies over the past year on plastic particles detected in tap and bottled water have sparked public concerns, but the limited data appears reassuring the U.N. agency said in its first report on potential health risks associated with ingestion.
Microplastics enter drinking water sources mainly through run-off and wastewater effluent, the WHO said. Evidence shows that microplastics found in some bottled water seem to be at least partly due to the bottling process and/or packaging such as plastic caps, it said.
It added however that the current and available studies on the toxicity of plastic parts are limited, and also have not used standardized methods enabling scientists to have reproducible and comparable metrics, and that more studies are needed to be more conclusive on certain of the issues.
Microplastics pose three threats, a physical one, a chemical and the third is about bacterial colonization.
The majority of plastic particles in water are larger than 150 micrometers in diameter and are excreted from the body, while the vast majority of smaller ones are likely to be excreted too, there still remains concern. WHO technical experts reported that more research needs to be conducted to know more about what is being absorbed, the distribution and their impacts.
The chemical hazard, experts have looked at the concentrations found in marine microplastics and chose a worst-case scenario saying we would ingest the highest possible concentrations. According to WHO, whatever the chemical, the exposure level was a lot safer than any threshold of risks.
Bacterial colonization, health experts say there are so many particles in the environment bacteria might adhere to, that microplastics would make a negligible contribution to any microbioflora that would be released and pose a risk.
For this report, however, despite the flaws, they say they worked with worst-case scenarios and are confident that the risk would remain low should some data change.
The WHO recommended for consumers to keep on consuming tap or bottled water, provided it is correctly treated, and didn’t recommend for any regulations to be put in place. It also called for more studies, investigating the potential cumulative effects of the ingestion of microplastics present in food, air, water.
The biggest overall health threat in water is from microbial pathogens —including from human and livestock waste entering water sources — that cause deadly diarrhoeal disease, especially in poor countries lacking water treatment systems, the WHO said.
Some 2 billion people drink water contaminated with faeces, causing nearly 1 million deaths annually, Gordon said, adding: “That has got to be the focus of regulators around the world.”
Plastic pollution is so widespread in the environment that you may be ingesting five grams a week, the equivalent of eating a credit card, a study commissioned by the environmental charity WWF International said in June.
That study said the largest source of plastic ingestion was drinking water, but another major source was shellfish. (Reuters)
British television presenter Caroline Flack was found hanged in her London flat on Saturday (February 15) and paramedics were unable to revive her, an inquest into her death heard.
The suicide of the 40-year-old former presenter of the hugely popular “Love Island” dating show has reignited a debate in Britain about the conduct of the tabloid press and social media trolls.
Coroner’s Officer Sandra Polson told the court that police had been flagged down on the street by an unidentified person who had led them to a residential address. There, a woman was found lying on her back.
An ambulance arrived and paramedics attempted CPR but were unable to revive her. She was pronounced dead at 1436 GMT on Saturday.
An autopsy determined that the cause of death was suspension by ligature. The coroner adjourned the rest of the inquest until Aug. 5. (Reuters)
Global warming was leading to an “irreversible” mass melting of the Antarctic ice and purging carbon from the atmosphere was the only solution to slow the process, an Australian climate scientist told Reuters on Wednesday (February 19).
Recent human activity has intensified global warming, which could result in a mass melting of Antarctica, said Zoe Thomas, a research fellow at the University of New South Wales who was part of an international team of scientists that recently published a paper on Antarctic ice melting.
The study showed the world could lose most of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which rests on the seabed and is fringed by floating ice, in a warmer world.
“What we’re seeing with the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is that this starting of the melt, once we reach a certain threshold, will continue despite our efforts to stop it,” she told Reuters.
The hottest temperature ever recorded in Antarctica of 18.3 degrees Celsius (64.94 degrees Fahrenheit) was taken at a research base there on Feb. 6. If hotter temperatures were to sustain they could cause an extreme global sea level rise.
“This will gradually displace people as it goes,” Thomas said. “We know this is already happening in small island communities and this will just continue to happen gradually as more and more houses are being inundated at high tide, then at normal tide and then even at low tide.”
Thomas said that the only thing that would slow down the ice melting was if economies across the world began de-carbonising themselves.
Many advanced economies have pledged to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 though Australia is largely seen as dragging its feet on the issue despite recently suffering one of its worst bushfire seasons ever. (Reuters)
Libya’s internationally recognized government on Tuesday (February 18) suspended talks hosted by the United Nations to halt warfare over the capital after eastern forces shelled Tripoli’s port, killing three people and almost hitting a highly explosive gas tanker.
Footage from Tripoli’s port showed black smoke rising near docked ships from the area believed to have been hit by shelling.
The U.N. has been hosting in Geneva ceasefire talks between officers from the Tripoli government and the eastern-based Libya National Army (LNA) led by commander Khalifa Haftar.
The two factions have been trying to take the capital in a near year-long campaign, displacing at least 150,000 people.
The LNA on Tuesday shelled Tripoli port, saying first it had attacked a Turkish vessel bringing weapons but saying later it had hit an arms depot. Three civilians were killed and five wounded, the Tripoli forces said.
In response to the LNA attack, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord said in a statement it suspended its participation in ceasefire talks “until firm responses are taken against the attacker, and we will respond firmly to the attack in appropriate timing.” (Reuters)
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