There is plastic all around us, from the toys our children play with to the packaging of the foods we eat. But the last place you would expect it to be is in the bottled water we drink.
When you drink from a plastic bottle of fresh H20, you’re swallowing more than just water.
A study by researchers from Orb Media revealed that many bottled water brands have tens, hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of microplastic particles floating in their products. They are called microparticles and are typically about the same thickness as a single strand of human hair, unfortunately for bottled water drinkers scientists don’t know yet what drinking them is doing to our bodies.
A study by researchers from Orb Media, conducted at the State University of New York in Fredonia, has found evidence of microparticle contamination in 93 percent of bottled water tested.
What does that mean, we are all drinking a bit of microplastic from the water we get from the tap, but plastic bottled water drinkers have it worse.
The research team examined 259 bottles of water from 11 different brands purchased at 19 locations in nine different countries – this is the largest investigation of its kind. If their peers confirm the findings, there will be solid proof that there is an international problem.
According to the researchers from Orb Media, the most common type of plastic fragment found was polypropylene – the same type of plastic used to make bottle caps. The bottles analysed were bought in the US, China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Lebanon, Kenya and Thailand.
The scientists used Nile red dye to fluoresce particles in the water – the dye tends to stick to the surface of plastics but not most natural materials.
The study has not been published in a journal and has not been through scientific peer review. Dr Andrew Mayes, a University of East Anglia scientist who developed the Nile red technique, told Orb Media he was “satisfied that it has been applied carefully and appropriately, in a way that I would have done it in my lab”, The Guardian reported.
The brands Orb Media said it had tested were: Aqua (Danone), Aquafina (PepsiCo), Bisleri (Bisleri International), Dasani (Coca-Cola), Epura (PepsiCo), Evian (Danone), Gerolsteiner (Gerolsteiner Brunnen), Minalba (Grupo Edson Queiroz), Nestlé Pure Life (Nestlé), San Pellegrino (Nestlé) and Wahaha (Hangzhou Wahaha Group).
Nestlé criticised the methodology of the Orb Media study, claiming in a statement to CBC that the technique using Nile red dye could “generate false positives”.
Coca-Cola told the BBC it had strict filtration methods, but acknowledged the ubiquity of plastics in the environment meant plastic fibres “may be found at minute levels even in highly treated products”.
A Gerolsteiner spokesperson said the company, too, could not rule out plastics getting into bottled water from airborne sources or from packing processes. The spokesperson said concentrations of plastics in water from their own analyses were lower than those allowed in pharmaceutical products.
Danone claimed the Orb Media study used a methodology that was “unclear”. The American Beverage Association said it “stood by the safety” of its bottled water, adding that the science around microplastics was only just emerging. The Guardian
As reported by Healthline, some of those toxic “ingredients” in plastic include endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These chemicals are found in many types of plastic and can seriously disrupt hormonal balance.
“So many of our plastic products that come in contact with food and beverages are made with endocrine-disrupting chemicals that leech into the environment and end up in our bodies in measurable quantities,” Nancy Wayne, a professor of physiology and reproductive endocrinologist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California in Los Angeles, told Healthline.
“Bisphenol A or BPA is detected in over 90 percent of urine samples from thousands of humans tested. That means that it is in high enough amounts in blood that it spills into our urine prior to being fully metabolized. Animal studies show that low amounts of BPA, below that which the FDA says is safe, leads to a host of abnormalities.
“Higher level of exposure to BPA in humans is associated with a host of health problems, including higher body fat in children, increased risk of miscarriages and premature birth, and increased incidence of prostate cancer,” she added. “And that’s just one of many chemicals. Add in all the other endocrine-disrupting chemicals and toxins we are exposed to, and we have a big problem that is impacting everyone, no matter who you are, where you live, or what your socioeconomic status is.”
That may very well be the reason why studies have found that close to 90 percent of teens have traces of these chemicals in their bodies. That is why studies into the effects of these toxins is so important.
The research done so far makes it clear that there are real concerns about plastic in our drinking water. If things continue as they are, our entire food and drinking supply might end up contaminated by plastic in one way or another.