Plastic particles in drinking water present ‘low’ risk – WHO
Robie de Guzman • August 23, 2019 • 1095
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)
MANILA, Philippines – The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday expressed concern over the re-emergence of poliovirus in the Philippines 19 years after it was declared polio-free.
The Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) earlier announced an outbreak on polio after a case was confirmed in a 3-year old girl from Lanao del Sur. Environmental samples from sewage in Manila and waterways in Davao also tested positive for the poliovirus.
“We are very concerned that polioviruses are now circulating in Manila, Davao, and Lanao del Sur,” WHO Representative in the Philippines, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said in a joint statement with UNICEF.
“It is deeply disconcerting that poliovirus has re-emerged in the Philippines after nearly two decades. The outbreak calls for urgent action to protect more children from being infected,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyun Dendevnorov said.
The agencies said the polio outbreak in the Philippines is confirmed to be from a circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2.
This is of particular concern, as wild poliovirus type 2 was certified as globally eradicated in 2015, they added.
Polio mainly affects children under five years of age and vaccination is their only and best protection against the highly infectious disease.
But if immunization activities are poorly conducted and too few children have received the required three doses of polio vaccine, the agencies said this can leave them “susceptible to poliovirus, either from vaccine-derived or wild polioviruses.”
“Full immunization protects them from both forms of the virus.”
“It reminds us of the importance of increasing immunization coverage to 95% of children to stop polio virus transmission in the Philippines… As long as one single child remains infected, children across the country and even beyond are at risk of contracting polio,” Dendevnorov said.
Prior to the declaration of the outbreak, the DOH and its partners launched a polio immunization campaign in the City of Manila. Further mass polio immunization rounds will be rolled out from October 2019.
The WHO and UNICEF both vowed to work closely with the DOH to strengthen surveillance and swiftly respond to the outbreak.
They also echoed the DOH’s call for parents and guardians, especially in affected areas, to have their children vaccinated for their protection against diseases.
“We urge all parents and caregivers of children under 5 years of age to have them vaccinated so that they are protected against polio for life.”
The WHO and UNICEF assured the oral polio vaccine (OPV) is a safe and effective vaccine that has saved millions of lives since its introduction in 1988.
The agencies explained that when a child is immunized with OPV, the weakened virus contained in the vaccine replicates in the intestine for a limited period, thereby developing immunity by building up antibodies.
If a population is not sufficiently immunized, the weakened virus can continue to circulate. The longer it is allowed to survive, the more changes it undergoes.
“In rare instances, the virus can change to a vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV), a form that has regained the ability to cause paralysis,” they said.
The WHO and UNICEF likewise called on local governments to help ensure that immunization campaigns are planned and implemented effectively.
They also reminded families to practice good personal hygiene, wash their hands regularly with soap and water, use a toilet, consume food that is fully cooked, and drink safe water.
The two agencies are among the partner-organizations under the Global Polio Eradication initiative (GPEI) supporting the Philippine government’s response by providing technical advice and on-the-ground monitoring and risk communication.
The GPEI is a public-private partnership led by national governments with the WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
India became the latest country after Brazil and Thailand to ban the sale of e-cigarettes in what could potentially be the biggest move against vaping globally over growing health concerns.
The ban, which also covers the production, import and advertising of e-cigarettes, cuts off a huge future market from e-cigarette makers at a time when the number of people smoking worldwide is declining.
“There has been a 77 percent increase in addiction of e-cigarettes among school-going or college-going young adults, teenagers, and children because nicotine addiction is quick and it is harmful as well,” Indian Secretary of Health and Family Welfare Preeti Sudan said.
India has 106 million smokers, second only to China.
The ban could also dash the expansion plans of companies such as Altria, backed Juul Labs, and Philip Morris International into the country.
“$150 billion opportunity, now that’s what is estimated, the nicotine market is going to be, why are we denying our farmers that, why are we denying our citizens a right to a less harmful product, these are questions that I would really like to ask the government,” Praveen Rikhy, Trade Representatives of endsin India said. (Reuters)
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