In an article published on March 15, 2018 by BBC News, editor David Shukman reported on a new study that tested various brands of bottled drinking water for the presence of microplastics. The study, entitled “Synthetic polymer contamination in bottled water,” was led by journalism organization Orb Media and conducted by Sherri Mason and other researchers at the State University of New York at Fredonia, U.S..
The researchers found signs of microplastic contamination in 93% of tested bottled waters (259 individual bottles of eleven brands). On average, tested waters contained around 10 larger microplastic particles (> 100 µm) per liter. The most common polymer spectroscopically identified in these particles was polypropylene (PP) which is often used for bottle caps. Smaller particles (6.5-100 µm) described as “probably plastics” (no spectroscopic confirmation) were found at an average level of 325 particles per liter. According to the authors, the observed microplastic contamination “is at least partially coming from the packaging and/or the bottling process itself.”
All of the tested bottled waters were packaged in plastic, except for one brand where water from both plastic and glass bottles was analyzed. “There was considerably less microplastic contamination within the water bottled in glass as compared to that packaged in plastic,” the study stated. The researchers thus concluded that “some of the microplastic contamination is likely coming from the water source, but a larger contribution might be originating from the packaging itself.”
In response to mounting evidence of microplastic contamination and consumer concern, the World Health Organization (WHO) will launch an assessment of the potential health risks of microplastics in drinking water.
UPDATE: An article reporting on this study was published on September 11, 2018, in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Chemistry. Another 2018 article co-authored by Mason, published on April 11, 2018 in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, reported on the presence of microplastic particles and fibers in tap water, beer, and sea salt.
David Shukman (March 15, 2018). “Bottled water: WHO launches plastic health review.” BBC
David Shukman (March 15, 2018). “Plastic particles found in bottled water.” BBC
Laignee Barron (March 15, 2018). “Microplastic contamination is found in most bottled water, a new study says.” Time
Plastics News Europe (March 15, 2018). “Study finds microplastics in 90% of bottled waters.”
Rachel Arthur (March 16, 2018). “‘Consumers can remain confident that bottled water products are safe.’” Beverage Daily
Cathy Siegner (March 19, 2018). “Plastic particles in bottled water — ubiquitous or dangerous?” Food Dive
Daily Maverick (March 26, 2018). “Health-E News: Micro-plastic in your water? It’s everywhere.”
Mason, S.A., et al. (2018). “Synthetic polymer contamination in bottled water.” State University of New York at Fredonia (pdf)
Mason, S.A., et al. (2018). “Synthetic polymer contamination in bottled water.” Frontiers in Chemistry 6:407.
Kosuth, M., et al. (2018). “Anthropogenic contamination of tap water, beer, and sea salt.” PLOS One DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0194970