Microplastics and associated chemicals in drinking water: A review of their occurrence and human health implications

Sci Total Environ. 2024 Feb 20:912:169594. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.169594. Epub 2023 Dec 27.


Microplastics (MPs) have entered drinking water (DW) via various pathways, raising concerns about their potential health impacts. This study provides a comprehensive review of MP-associated chemicals, such as oligomers, plasticizers, stabilizers, and ultraviolet (UV) filters that can be leached out during DW treatment and distribution. The leaching of these chemicals is influenced by various environmental and operating factors, with three major ones identified: MP concentration and polymer type, pH, and contact time. The leaching process is substantially enhanced during the disinfection step of DW treatment, due to ultraviolet light and/or disinfectant-triggered reactions. The study also reviewed human exposure to MPs and associated chemicals in DW, as well as their health impacts on the human nervous, digestive, reproductive, and hepatic systems, especially the neuroendocrine toxicity of endocrine-disrupting chemicals. An overview of MPs in DW, including tap water and bottled water, was also presented to enable a background understanding of MPs-associated chemicals. In short, certain chemicals leached from MPs in DW can have significant implications for human health and demand further research on their long-term health impacts, mitigation strategies, and interactions with other pollutants such as disinfection byproducts (DBPs) and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). This study is anticipated to facilitate the research and management of MPs in DW and beverages.

Keywords: Additive; Drinking water; Health impact; Leaching; Microplastics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drinking Water* / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Microplastics
  • Plastics
  • Polymers
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / analysis
  • Water Purification*


  • Microplastics
  • Plastics
  • Drinking Water
  • Polymers
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical