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WHO to hold review into plastics in drinking water

The World Health Organization (WHO) will hold a review into the potential risks of plastic particles in drinking water after a new study suggested the levels in bottled water are around twice as high as in tap water.

Scientists based at the State University of New York in Fredonia assessed 250 bottles from nine countries in a study for Orb Media and found an average of 10.4 plastic particles per litre of bottled water.

The study found some bottles had thousands of the particles – which ranged in size from the width of a human hair down to a red blood cell – while others effectively had no plastic at all.

Orb Media last year conducted a study warning of the prevalence of microplastics in tap water, but the new report indicated that the problem was substantially worse in bottled water.

It said: "For microplastic debris around 100 microns in size, about the diameter of a human hair, bottled water samples contained nearly twice as many pieces of microplastic per liter (10.4) than the tap water samples (4.45)."

It remains unclear whether the microplastics are harmful to human health.

Bruce Gordon, coordinator of the WHO’s global work on water and sanitation, told BBC News: "When we think about the composition of the plastic, whether there might be toxins in it, to what extent they might carry harmful constituents, what actually the particles might do in the body – there's just not the research there to tell us.

"We normally have a 'safe' limit but to have a safe limit, to define that, we need to understand if these things are dangerous, and if they occur in water at concentrations that are dangerous."

Author: Robin Hackett, editor, WWT
Topic: Drinking water quality
Tags: drinking water , drinking water quality


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