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Bottled Water and Microplastics – Discovery Sparks Uncertainty

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A recent discovery of microplastic contamination in bottled water has sparked controversy. According to the BBC, the WHO is investigating the latest discovery of microplastics in plastic-bottled water. The study will consider the long-term effects of microplastic ingestion.

The discovery of the ‘microplastic contaminants’ was made by Orb Media, a nonprofit journalism organization. They sampled 259 bottles from 11 brands in nine countries and found “contamination with plastic including polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).” The study states 93% of the sample bottled water showed some sign of microplastic contamination, with an average of 10.4 plastic particles (greater than 100 microns – about the width of a human hair) per liter. This is twice as much microplastic particles as within tap water.

“Seventeen bottles out of the 259 bottles analyzed (~7%) showed no microplastic … indicating that 93% of the bottled water tested showed some sign of microplastic contamination. The densities of microplastic contamination are quite variable ranging from the 17 bottles with no contamination to one bottle that showed an excess of 10,000 microplastic particles per liter.” – SYNTHETIC POLYMER CONTAMINATION IN BOTTLED WATER, Sherri A. Mason, Victoria Welch, Joseph Neratko

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The study paper attests the contamination may result from packaging and bottling processes. Furthermore, “the tests also showed a much greater number of even smaller particles that researchers said are also likely plastic. The global average for these particles was 314.6 per liter,” Orb Media states.

“Some of the bottles we tested contained so many particles that we asked a former astrophysicist to use his experience counting stars in the heavens to help us tally these fluorescing constellations.” – Orb Media

The WHO claims around 2.1 billion people lack safe drinking water at home. Bottled water is considered as the hallmark of clean, easily accessible water. The plastic bottling industry is the fastest-growing beverage manufacturing business in the world, earning around $147 Billion, with an annual growth of 9% in recent years.

However, the discovery of the plastic particles in bottled water has prompted the WHO to deeply analyze potential health effects.

“These are foreign hard particles which our body will obviously want to get rid of but it can’t because plastic is not degradable so that will cause harm to the local tissue. But at the moment we don’t know.” – Dr. Stephanie Wright

You can find the final official lab report here.