Thursday January 23, 2020

Microplastics Contained in Drinking Water Pose “Low” Risk to Human Health at Current Levels

Microplastics enter drinking water sources mainly through run-off and wastewater effluent, the WHO said

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FILE - Bags filled with caps are pictured at the Association Bouchon d'Amour, which collects and recycles plastic caps in Martignas-Sur-Jalles, near Bordeaux, France, Nov. 23, 2018. VOA

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 Thursday.

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 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 because of the bottling process and/or packaging such as plastic caps, it said.

“The headline message is to reassure drinking water consumers around the world, that based on this assessment, our assessment of the risk is that it is low,” Bruce Gordon of the WHO’s department of public health, environmental and social determinants of health, told a briefing.

Microplastics, Drinking Water, Human
Microplastics contained in drinking water pose a “low” risk to human health at current levels, but more research is needed to reassure consumers. Pixabay

What happens to plastic in the body?

The WHO did not recommended routine monitoring for microplastics in drinking water. But research should focus on issues including what happens to chemical additives in the particles once they enter the gastrointestinal tract, it said.

The majority of plastic particles in water are larger than 150 micrometres in diameter and are excreted from the body, while “smaller particles are more likely to cross the gut wall and reach other tissues,” it said.

Health concerns have centered around smaller particles, said Jennifer De France, a WHO technical expert and one of the report’s authors.

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“For these smallest size particles, where there is really limited evidence, we need know more about what is being absorbed, the distribution and their impacts,” she said.

More research is needed into risks from microplastics exposure throughout the environment — “in our drinking water, air and food,” she added.

Alice Horton, a microplastics researcher at Britain’s National Oceanography Centre, said in a statement on the WHO’s findings: “There are no data available to show that microplastics pose a hazard to human health, however this does not necessarily mean that they are harmless.”

“It is important to put concerns about exposure to microplastics from drinking water into context: we are widely exposed to microplastics in our daily lives via a wide number of sources, of which drinking water is just one,” she added.

Microplastics, Drinking Water, Human
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 its first report. Pixabay

A credit card’s worth a week

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.

The biggest overall health threat in water is from microbial pathogens, including from human and livestock waste entering water sources, that cause deadly diarrhea disease, especially in poor countries lacking water treatment systems, the WHO said.

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About 2 billion people drink water contaminated with feces, causing nearly 1 million deaths annually, Gordon said, adding: “That has got to be the focus of regulators around the world.” (VOA)

Next Story

Dance-like Behaviour in Chimpanzees Linked with Human Evolution: Study

Human dancing skills evolved from chimpanzees

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Chimpanzees
Scientists have found that a duo dance-like behaviour in chimpanzees is linked with human evolution. Pixabay

Researchers have found two chimpanzees performed a duo dance-like behaviour, similar to a human conga-line.

According to the study published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers found the levels of motoric coordination, synchrony and rhythm between the two female chimpanzees housed in a zoo in the US, matched the levels shown by orchestra players performing the same musical piece.

Other species have been shown to be able to entertain by moving to the pace of a rhythmic tempo by an external stimulus and solo individuals, however, this is the first time it hasn’t been triggered by nonhuman partners or signals, the study said.

“Dance is an icon of human expression. Despite astounding diversity around the world’s cultures and dazzling abundance of reminiscent animal systems, the evolution of dance in the human clade remains obscure, said Adriano Lameira, from the University of Warwick in the US.

Chimpanzees human evolution
This behaviour in chimpanzees forces scientists interested in the evolution of human dance to consider new conditions. Pixabay

Dance requires individuals to interactively synchronize their whole-body tempo to their partner’s, with near-perfect precision, this explains why no dance forms were present amongst nonhuman primates,” Lameira said.

According to the researchers, critically, this is evidence for conjoined full-body rhythmic entrainment in great apes that could help reconstruct possible proto-stages of human dance is still lacking.

Although the newly described behaviour probably represents a new form a stereotypy in captivity in this great ape species, the behaviour forces scientists interested in the evolution of human dance to consider new conditions that may have catalysed the emergence of one of human’s most exuberant and richest forms of expression.

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The researchers report an endogenously-effected case of ritualised dance-like behaviour between two captive chimpanzees – synchronized bipedalism.

By studying videos they revealed that synchronisation between individuals was non-random, predictable, phase concordant, maintained with instantaneous centi-second precision and jointly regulated, with individuals also taking turns as ‘pace-makers’, said the researchers. (IANS)