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- WHO Releases Health Review After Microplastics Found In 90% Of Bottled Water
- Researchers find that levels of plastic fibers in popular brands of bottled water could be twice as high as those found in tap water
The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a review of the potential risks of plastic in drinking water after a new analysis of some of the world's most popular bottled water brands, which found that more than 90% contained small pieces of plastic. A previous study also found high levels of microplastics in tap water.
In the new study, analysis of 259 bottles from 19 locations in nine countries from 11 different brands found an average of 325 plastic particles for every liter of water sold.
In a bottle of Nestlé Pure Life, the concentrations were as high as 10,000 pieces of plastic per liter of water. Of the 259 bottles tested, only 17 had no plastic, according to the study.
Scientists from the State University of New York at Fredonia were hired by the Orb Media journalism project to analyze bottled water.
The scientists wrote that they had "found roughly twice as many plastic particles within bottled water" compared to their previous study of tap water, The Guardian reported.
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According to the new study, the most common type of plastic fragment found was polypropylene, the same type of plastic used to make bottle caps. The analyzed bottles were purchased in the US, China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Lebanon, Kenya and Thailand.
The scientists used Nile red dye to fluoresce particles in the water; dye tends to adhere to the surface of plastics, but not to most natural materials.
The study has not been published in a journal and has not been peer-reviewed. Dr Andrew Mayes, a University of East Anglia scientist who developed the Red Nile technique, told Orb Media that he was “pleased that it has been applied carefully and appropriately, the way it would have been done in my laboratory ”.
The brands Orb Media claimed to have tried were: Aqua (Danone), Aquafina (PepsiCo), Bisleri (Bisleri International), Dasani (Coca-Cola), Epura (PepsiCo), Evian (Danone), Gerolsteiner (Gerolsteiner Brunnen), Minalba (Edson Queiroz Group), Nestlé Pure Life (Nestlé), San Pellegrino (Nestlé) and Wahaha (Hangzhou Wahaha Group).
A spokesperson for the World Health Organization told The Guardian that while there was no evidence yet on human health impacts, he was aware that it was an emerging area of concern. The spokesperson said WHO "will review the very limited evidence available with the aim of identifying evidence gaps and setting a research agenda to inform a more comprehensive risk assessment."
A second, unrelated analysis, also just released, was commissioned by the Story of Stuff campaign group and examined 19 brands of consumer bottled water in the US It also found that plastic microfibers were widespread.
The Boxed Water brand contained an average of 58.6 plastic fibers per liter. Ozarka and Ice Mountain, both owned by Nestlé, had concentrations of 15 and 11 pieces per liter, respectively. Fiji Water had 12 plastic fibers per liter.
Abigail Barrows, who conducted the Story of Stuff research in her lab in Maine, said there were several possible routes for plastics to enter the bottles.
“The plastic microfibers are easily airlifted. It is clear that this happens not only abroad but also in factories. It could come from the fans or the clothes that are worn, "he said.
Stiv Wilson, campaign coordinator at Story of Stuff, said that finding plastic contamination in bottled water was problematic "because people are paying a premium for these products."
Microplastic pollution in the oceans is much worse than previously feared, say scientists
Jacqueline Savitz from the Oceana campaign group said: “We know that plastics are accumulating in marine animals and this means that we too are exposed, some of us every day. Between microplastics in water, toxic chemicals in plastics and end-of-life exposure to marine animals, it's a triple whammy. "
Nestlé criticized 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 that it had strict filtration methods, but acknowledged that the ubiquity of plastics in the environment meant that plastic fibers "can be found in minimal levels even in highly treated products."
A Gerolsteiner spokesperson also said the company could not rule out plastics getting into bottled water from air sources or from packaging processes. The spokesperson said the concentrations of plastics in the water from his own tests were lower than those allowed in pharmaceuticals.
Danone claimed that the Orb Media study used a methodology that was not "clear". The American Beverage Association said it "stayed away" from its bottled water, adding that the science surrounding microplastics was just emerging.
The Guardian reached out to Nestlé and Boxed Water for comment on the Story of Stuff study, but did not receive a response at time of publication.
Original article (in English)