We use bottled water because we think it is clean and devoid of materials that are harmful for our health but that might not be the case. A new study has revealed that 93% of the bottled water is indeed contaminated with microplastics.
The study was carried out by Orb Media, a non-profit journalism organization along with scientists at the State University of New York in Fredonia. Fluids from 259 bottles, purchased from 19 different location in nine different countries were placed under a microscope. 11 brands were represented including Nestle, Pure Life, Aquafina, Evian, San Pellegrino, and Dasani.
Microplastics larger than 100 microns in size were found an average of 10.4 particles per litre and smaller particles ranging from 6.5 to 100 microns were found to be 325 per litre. A single bottle alone contained more than 10,000 microplastics per litre. This is twice the amount of microplastics found in tap water according to a previous study.
The study has not been peer-reviewed and the particles were detected using an imaging technique known as the Nile Red method and only the larger particles can be confirmed via spectroscopy.
“This is pretty substantial,” explained Andrew Mayes, who is a senior lecturer in chemistry at the University of East Anglia. “I’ve looked in some detail at the finer points of the way the work was done, and I’m satisfied that it has been applied carefully and appropriately, in a way that I would have done it in my lab.”
The Nile Red method has gained credibility and is considered a reliable way to test plastic particles in water samples. It involves a fluorescent dye mixed into the sample that binds to the plastic particles illuminating them under a fluorescent microscope. As small particles can not be confirmed via spectroscopy, they could be false positives and a natural material could have been stained by the dye but these are still called probable microplastics by Mayes.
Our current understanding of what ingesting these particles does to the body is very limited and it is still unknown what ingesting these particles does to the body.
“What does it mean if we have this large amount of microplastic bits in food?” says Jane Muncke, chief scientist at the Zurich-based research organization Food Packaging Forum. “Is there some kind of interaction in the gastrointestinal tract with these microparticles … which then could potentially lead to chemicals being taken up, getting into the human body? We don’t have actual experimental data to confirm that assumption. We don’t know all the chemicals in plastics, even … There’s so many unknowns here. That, combined with the highly likely population-wide exposure to this stuff — that’s probably the biggest story here. I think it’s something to be concerned about.”
World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a review into the potential health risks of plastic water bottles after this study and will be reviewing the evidence that is available for now and will conduct further researches to fill the gaps. Plastic bottled water might not be as clean as we have been thinking this whole time.