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Dietary and inhalation exposure to nano- and microplastic particles and potential implications for human health

Microplastic in the environment is an emerging contaminant that has generated intense public concern. Questions have been asked about the human health impacts of the exposure to microplastic particles, from the polymers themselves to the monomers as well as additives used to make the plastic material, adsorbed chemical contaminants and associated biofilms.

Recognizing this, WHO has reviewed the state of evidence on microplastic in drinking water and published a report assessing the risks to human health in August 2019. To continue WHO’s effort to assess the potential health risks associated with exposure to microplastic, a project aiming to look at the exposure from the environment, including exposure via food, water and air has been undertaken. With the support of an international group of experts assembled in 2019, WHO has assembled and reviewed the available data published up to December 2021 and assessed the risks to human health from exposure to microplastic particles from the environment. As a result of this work, WHO identified research needs and defined the scope of future work needed on microplastic particles to address current uncertainties.