A new study conducted by Orb Media and researchers at the State University of New York at Fredonia has found that a whopping 93% of bottled water contains microplastics.
The 259 individual bottles that were tested from the study, which spanned across 27 different lots and 11 different brands, purchased from 19 locations in 9 countries, showed an average of 10.4 microparticles > 100 um per liter of bottle water. Results were confirmed, after accounting for possible background (lab) contamination), by FTIR spectroscopic analysis. This average amount is twice as much as what was found within tap water that was studied previously.
Researchers used fluorescent tagging with Nile Red dye to study the microplastic contamination. They found polypropylene, nylon and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Bits of plastic ranged in size from the width of a human hair to a red blood cell.
Only 17 bottles of the 259 studies contained no contamination. National brands that were studied included Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, Nestlé Pure Life, and San Pellegrino. International brands included Aqua (Indonesia), Bisleri (India), Epura (Mexico), Gerolsteiner (Germany), Minalba (Brazil), and Wahaha (China).
The study has prompted the World Health Organization to launch a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water. As Erik Solheim, executive director of the United Nationals Environment Program says, “Please name one human being on the entire planet who wants plastic in his or her bottle.”
WHO says that there is currently not any evidence on the impacts of microplastics on human health, but they will “review the very scarce available evidence with the objective of identifying evidence gaps, and establishing a research agenda to inform a more thorough risk assessment.”
Several of the national brands tested responded to the study, claiming that the methodology used is “unclear.” The American Beverage Association, which represents Nestlé, Evian, Dasani and Aquafina, stated “the science on microplastics and microfibres is nascent and an emerging field … We stand by the safety of our bottled water products and we are interested in contributing to serious scientific research that will … help us all understand the scope, impact and appropriate next steps.”
Plastic pollution has become a pervasive problem in the environment. It is estimated that by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Recent studies specifically on microplastics have found pervasive particles in ice cores, in the deepest parts of the ocean and on every beach worldwide.