Norwich scientist who developed microplastics test welcomes new report

Dr Andrew Mayes, from UEA. Photo: UEA

Dr Andrew Mayes, from UEA. Photo: UEA - Credit: UEA

A University of East Anglia (UEA) scientist who pioneered a test to detect microplastics in water has welcomed a World Health Organisation (WHO) report calling for more research into how the tiny particles affect the environment.

Dr Andrew Mayes, from UEA's School of Chemistry, developed a test that revealed microplastics in bottled water around the world.

The rapid screening method identifies microscopic plastic particles - as small as a few micrometres - in water and sediment samples.

This research led to the WHO report, which also calls for a reduction in plastic pollution to benefit the environment and reduce human exposure.

Dr Mayes said: "The key finding, that microplastics in drinking water pose a low risk to human health, based on current available evidence, will no doubt come as a relief to worried members of the public, who may have been alarmed following widespread media attention to scientific reports of microplastics in mains water and bottled water over the last couple of years.

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"The recommendation that routine monitoring of microplastics in drinking water is not necessary at present will also be a huge relief to the UK water industry, since it will no doubt reduce pressure on the water regulator to act in this way. It is also sensible, since it would place a huge financial burden on the industry and would be premature, since there are no cost-effective and validated methods that could be applied for this purpose currently.

"The report also emphasizes that, while risks to health of microplastics through ingestion in water may be low, there is a continuing need to reduce plastic inputs into the environment at source, in order to prevent the problem becoming worse."

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He added: "Hopefully, highlighting this issue in such a prominent way in the report will encourage the research community and funding agencies to address this gap in an urgent and concerted way."

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