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Microplastic contamination of drinking water: a systematic review.

Danopoulos, Evan; Twiddy, Maureen; Rotchell, Jeanette M.


Evan Danopoulos


Microplastics (MPs) are omnipresent in the environment, including the human food chain; a likely important contributor to human exposure is drinking water.
To undertake a systematic review of MP contamination of drinking water and estimate quantitative exposures.
The protocol for the systematic review employed has been published in PROSPERO (PROSPERO 2019, Registration number: CRD42019145290). MEDLINE, EMBASE and Web of Science were searched from launch to the 3rd of June 2020, selecting studies that used procedural blank samples and a validated method for particle composition analysis. Studies were reviewed within a narrative analysis. A bespoke risk of bias (RoB) assessment tool was used.
12 studies were included in the review: six of tap water (TW) and six of bottled water (BW). Meta-analysis was not appropriate due to high statistical heterogeneity (I 2 >95%). Seven studies were rated low RoB and all confirmed MP contamination of drinking water. The most common polymers identified in samples were polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene (PP), Methodological variability was observed throughout the experimental protocols. For example, the minimum size of particles extracted and analysed, which varied from 1 to 100 μm, was seen to be critical in the data reported. The maximum reported MP contamination was 628 MPs/L for TW and 4889 MPs/L for BW, detected in European samples. Based on typical consumption data, this may be extrapolated to a maximum yearly human adult uptake of 458,000 MPs for TW and 3,569,000 MPs for BW.
This is the first systematic review that appraises the quality of existing evidence on MP contamination of drinking water and estimates human exposures. The precautionary principle should be adopted to address concerns on possible human health effects from consumption of MPs. Future research should aim to standardise experimental protocols to aid comparison and elevate quality.


Danopoulos, E., Twiddy, M., & Rotchell, J. M. (2020). Microplastic contamination of drinking water: a systematic review. PLoS ONE, 15(7 July),

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Jul 15, 2020
Online Publication Date Jul 31, 2020
Publication Date Jul 31, 2020
Deposit Date Jul 17, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jul 20, 2020
Journal PLoS ONE
Print ISSN 1932-6203
Electronic ISSN 1932-6203
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Issue 7 July
Article Number e0236838
Keywords Water pollution; Systematic reviews; Water resources; Medical risk factors; Metaanalysis; Surface water; Body weight; Polymers
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