A review article published on October 5, 2018, in the peer-reviewed journal Water Research, focused on “migration and potential risk of trace phthalates in bottled water.” Qiong Luo and colleagues from the School of Environment and Energy, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou, China, analyzed literature on “five representative phthalates in bottled water” across 21 countries in order to evaluate “the phthalates-associated potential risks in both human daily intake and estrogenic effect.” In plastic bottles, phthalates are “considered as non-intentionally added substances (NIAS)” that could originate from “source water, production process, raw material of packaging, and even background contamination in the laboratory,” the authors explained.

The authors found studies that measured the target five phthalates in bottled water of “more than three hundred brands.” The detection frequency was 68% for dibutyl phthalate (DBP, CAS 84-74-2), 62% for di-2-(ethyl hexyl) phthalate (DEHP, CAS 117-81-7), 47% for diethyl phthalate (DEP, CAS 84-66-2), 40% for benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP, CAS 85-68-7), and 30% for dimethyl phthalate (DMP, CAS 131-11-3).

The top five countries with regard to DEHP concentrations measured in bottled water were Thailand, Croatia, Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia, and China, with an average level of 61.1, 8.8, 6.3, 6.2, and 6.1 µg/L, respectively. Bottled water from Pakistan had high average levels of BBP, DBP, DMP, and DEP, with “DEP and DMP . . . ranked 1st among all countries with the average levels of 22.4 and 50.2 µg/L, while BBP and DBP were ranked 2nd and 3rd with the average levels of 7.5 and 17.8 µg/L, respectively.”

Using the collected data, the authors performed a risk assessment based on human daily intake and concluded that “phthalates in bottled waters studied would not pose a serious concern to public health.” However, “the adverse estrogenic effects of phthalates in bottled water from some countries appeared to be significant,” they further note. Therefore, “more efforts should be needed to systematically examine the phthalates-related safety of bottled water.”


Luo, Q., et al. (2018). “Migration and potential risk of trace phthalates in bottled water: A global situation.Water Research 147: 362-372.