Health Highlights: Aug. 22, 2019

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Microplastics in Drinking Water Not a Health Risk: WHO

Levels of microplastics in drinking water don’t appear to be a health risk, according to the World Health Organization.

However the U.N. health agency also noted that more research is needed into how microplastics may impact human health and the environment, the Associated Press reported.

Microplastics — tiny particles smaller than about one-fifth of an inch — are “ubiquitous in the environment” and have been found in drinking water, including tap and bottled, the WHO said in the report released Wednesday.

“But just because we’re ingesting them doesn’t mean we have a risk to human health,’ said Bruce Gordon, WHO’s coordinator of water, sanitation and hygiene, the AP reported.

“The main conclusion is, I think, if you are a consumer drinking bottled water or tap water, you shouldn’t necessarily be concerned,” according to Gordon.

However, he noted that available data on microplastics is “weak” and said more research is needed. He also called for increased efforts to reduce plastic pollution, the AP reported.

Microplastics in water don’t appear to be a health threat at the moment, but “I wouldn’t want people to go away with the idea that microplastics are no longer important,” said Andrew Mayes, a senior lecturer in chemistry at Britain’s University of East Anglia who wasn’t involved in the WHO report.

Microplastics might be damaging the environment and stronger measures to reduce plastic waste are needed, he told the AP.

“We know that these types of materials cause stress to small organisms,” Mayes said. “They could be doing a lot of damage in unseen ways.”


More Opioid Addiction Treatment in States That Expanded Medicaid: Study

The use of the opioid addiction medication buprenorphine is much higher in states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act than in those that did not expand the program, a new study finds.

It noted that the five states with the highest prescribing rates for buprenorphine — Vermont, West Virginia, Kentucky, Montana and Ohio — all expanded the program, The New York Times reported.

Buprenorphine eases opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Nationwide, there was a nearly five-fold increase in the number of Medicaid-covered prescriptions for buprenorphine between 2011 and 2018, from 1.3 million to 6.2 million, according to the study from the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research group.

The findings add to evidence that the Affordable Care Act is playing a major role in combating the nation’s opioid epidemic, according to The Times.

“Expanding Medicaid is probably the most important thing states can do to increase treatment rates,” said study lead author Lisa Clemans-Cope.

Over the past decade, there have been hundreds of thousands of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S., including nearly 48,000 last year, but most people with opioid addiction don’t receive treatment, according to government data, The Times reported.