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Plastic in bottled water: no cause for panic, microplastics will not kill you

Researchers find levels of plastic fibres in popular bottled water brands could be twice as high as those found in tap water

Stop panicking.

Nobody has any concrete information on what microplastics would actually do to your innards. The US-based Orb Media report that tested more than 250 bottles from 11 brands revealed the presence of plastic including “polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET)”.

You look at a bottle of water, and unless you see actual stuff floating around in it, you believe the advertising and reach for it. But, all is not as clear as it appears to be.

There are connections to increases in certain kinds of cancer to lower sperm count to increases in conditions like ADHD and autism. We know that they are connected to these synthetic chemicals in the environment and we know that plastics are providing kind of a means to get those chemicals into our bodies.”

 - Sherri Mason, Researcher, on results of plastic contamination


If you drink an average of two litres of water a day, you are consuming about 511875 pieces of microplastic, as per the study results.

Are you imagining a plastic lump at the bottom of your belly, floating around, surviving the next millennia despite you not being around?

Fret not, for scientists and medical professionals tell us that ingested inedible micro particles are pushed out by the body at the earliest possible – within a day or two. The body cannot use it, so out it goes. A very efficient system.

How cousumed plastic particles could interact with your body (click the image to enlarge)

When the results of Orb Media water microplastics test was presented to Bruce Gordon, coordinator of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) global work on water and sanitation, by BBC News, he replied that “…what actually the particles might do in the body – there's just not the research there to tell us.”

There have been studies in the past on the harm that plastic containers cause to foods/water stored in them. The focus to a large extent has been on phthalates.

Oh, no, what’s that you ask?

Well, they are a group of chemicals that are in literally almost everything around us, from beauty products to healthcare. They help a face cream be absorbed better, prevent a hairspray from becoming too stiff, fragrances to stay or make plastics more malleable.

They do leach into water and are found in human body excretions, but the US Food and Drug Administration that has investigated their safety levels repeatedly, have not found any direct link to their presence and diseases.

HLT_130512 woman drinking water

Similarly, Gordon from the WHO told BBC News: "We normally have a 'safe' limit but to have a safe limit, to define that, we need to understand if these things [microplastics] are dangerous, and if they occur in water at concentrations that are dangerous."

The WHO will be launching a review of bottled water, the Orb Media study and what is the impact of microplastics in the long term.

So, in the short term, stay hydrated and watch the space.

- By Anupa Kurian-Murshed, Social Media Editor


Microplastics found in more than 90% of bottled water, study says

A new analysis of some of the world's most popular bottled water brands says more than 90% contain tiny pieces of plastic.

Analysis of 259 bottles from 19 locations in nine countries across 11 different brands found an average of 325 plastic particles for every litre of water being sold.

Concentrations were as high as 10,000 plastic pieces for every litre of water. Of the 259 bottles tested, only 17 were free of plastics, according to the study.

water bottle3

Scientists based at the State University of New York in Fredonia were commissioned by journalism project Orb Media to analyse the bottled water.

The scientists wrote they had "found roughly twice as many plastic particles within bottled water" compared with their previous study of tap water, reported by the Guardian.

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 bottles analysed were bought in the US, China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Lebanon, Kenya and Thailand.

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 brands tested

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), Nestle Pure Life (Nestle), San Pellegrino (Nestle) and Wahaha (Hangzhou Wahaha Group).

bottled water combo

A second unrelated analysis, also just released, was commissioned by campaign group Story of Stuff and examined 19 consumer bottled water brands in the US. It also found plastic microfibres were widespread.

The brand Boxed Water contained an average of 58.6 plastic fibres per litre. Ozarka and Ice Mountain, both owned by Nestle, had concentrations at 15 and 11 pieces per litre, respectively. Fiji Water had 12 plastic fibres per litre.

Abigail Barrows, who carried out the research for Story of Stuff in her laboratory in Maine, said there were several possible routes for the plastics to be entering the bottles.

"Plastic microfibers are easily airborne. Clearly that's occurring not just outside but inside factories. It could come in from fans or the clothing being worn," she said.

Stiv Wilson, campaign coordinator at Story of Stuff, said finding plastic contamination in bottled water was problematic "because people are paying a premium for these products".

Jacqueline Savitz, of campaign group Oceana, said: "We know plastics are building up in marine animals and this means we too are being exposed, some of us every day. Between the microplastics in water, the toxic chemicals in plastics and the end-of-life exposure to marine animals, it's a triple whammy."

Nestle 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.

Bottled water: Is it all the same?

Dubai: When thirst kicks in, we tend to reach out to the closest mineral bottled water we have at hand, without taking a single glance at its composition.

Most of the time, people are not very much concerned about the components of bottled waters, and are less likely to choose one brand over the other, unless it was the packaging or temperature of one bottle that was favored more during that particular moment.

A batch of bottled water

Most of the time, people are not very much concerned about the components of bottled waters, and are less likely to choose one brand over the other, unless it was the packaging or temperature of one bottle that was favored more during that particular moment. For more

How safe is your drinking water?

Dubai: The UAE will have a new set of federal standards for drinking water safety by mid-2013 as the Emirates Standardisation and Metrology Authority (ESMA) develops a comprehensive unified system, Gulf News has learnt.

The standards will cover both packaged and tap water as well as ice blocks sold in supermarkets.

bottled water

“We are making sure that drinking water is conforming fully to the highest purity standards and causes no harm to people,” said Mohammad Saleh Badri, Director General of ESMA, speaking exclusively with Gulf News. “We are covering both the packaged water industry as well as tap water because a few water-supplying authorities claim that the tap water is fit for drinking so we will make sure they prove their claim.” For more

We are living on a plastic planet

Sometimes a single revelation opens our eyes to a whole new view of the world. The contamination of tap water around the world with microplastics unmasks earth as a planet pervasively polluted with plastic.

WEB WATER

What that means for the seven billion people who live on it, no one yet knows. All the experts can agree on is that, given the warning signs being given by life in the oceans, the need to find out is urgent. For more

 

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