If you thought you were safe drinking bottled water, think again. The Guardian reports that a new study commissioned by Orb Media has found microplastics in 90 percent of 259 bottles of water tested. Surveying several brands in nine different countries, scientists from the State University of New York in Fredonia told the paper some of the bottles contained twice as many plastic particles as tap water they had previously studied.
To highlight the particles in any given sample, the scientists used Nile red dye that sticks to plastic, though The Guardian makes a point of noting that the study has not been published in a peer reviewed journal. That said, the technique’s developer, University of East Anglia scientist Dr Andrew Mayes, told the paper that he was satisfied the study had been conducted carefully, in the way he would have done in his own lab.
Here is a list of all the brands Orb Media said were tested in the study:
Aqua (Danone), Aquafina (PepsiCo), Bisleri (Bisleri International), Dasani (Coca-Cola), Epura (PepsiCo), Evian (Danone), Gerolsteiner (Gerolsteiner Brunnen), Minalba (Grupo Edson Queiroz), Nestlé Pure Life (Nestlé), San Pellegrino (Nestlé) and Wahaha (Hangzhou Wahaha Group).
Of the 259 bottles of water tested, only 17 were plastic-free. The rest contained bits of polypropylene, polystyrene, nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
Nestlé was not satisfied with the method used to test the water, telling CBC News using Nile red dye could “generate false positives”.
How ingesting plastics affects humans is still not 100 percent certain as this is an emergent field of study, according to the National Institutes of Health. Still, they note in a 2017 report, “If inhaled or ingested, microplastics may accumulate and exert localized particle toxicity by inducing or enhancing an immune response. Chemical toxicity could occur due to the localized leaching of component monomers, endogenous additives, and adsorbed environmental pollutants. Chronic exposure is anticipated to be of greater concern due to the accumulative effect that could occur.”