Particles of plastic have been found in tests on major brands of bottled water. 250 bottles bought in nine different countries were examined.
An average of 10 plastic particles per liter have been discovered, each larger than the width of a human hair. The research was led by the journalism organisation Orb Media.
The tests were conducted at the State University of New York in Fredonia.
Sherri Mason, a professor of chemistry at the university, conducted the analysis and told BBC News: “We found [plastic] in bottle after bottle and brand after brand.
“It’s not about pointing fingers at particular brands; it’s really showing that this is everywhere, that plastic has become such a pervasive material in our society, and it’s pervading water – all of these products that we consume at a very basic level.”
Prof Mason, talking about the tests stated: “It’s not catastrophic, the numbers that we’re seeing, but it is concerning.”
The research into bottled water involved buying packs from 11 different global and national brands in countries chosen for their large populations or their relatively high consumption of bottled water. These were:
- Nestle Pure Life
- San Pellegrino
- Aqua (Indonesia)
- Bisleri (India)
- Epura (Mexico)
- Gerolsteiner (Germany)
- Minalba (Brazil)
- Wahaha (China)
93% of bottled water tested showed signs of microplastic contamination, while the test also found 10.4 particles per liter bigger than 100 microns.
314 particles per liter smaller than 100 microns which are probably plastic were found, according to Orb Media/State University of New York Fredonia.
BBC contacted the companies involved and most responded:
“Nestle told us its own internal testing for microplastics began more than two years ago and had not detected any “above trace level”. A spokesman added that Prof Mason’s study missed key steps to avoid “false positives” but he invited Orb Media to compare methods.
Gerolsteiner also said it had been testing its water for microplastics for a number of years and that the results showed levels “significantly below the limits for particles” set for pharmaceutical companies. It said it could not understand how Prof Mason’s study reached its conclusions.
It also said its measures exceeded industry standards but added that microparticles are “everywhere” so “the possibility of them entering the product from ambient air or packaging materials during the bottling process can therefore not be completely ruled out”.
Coca-Cola said it had some of the most stringent quality standards in the industry and used a “multi-step filtration process”. But it too acknowledged that microplastics “appear to be ubiquitous and therefore may be found at minute levels even in highly treated products”.
Danone said it could not comment on the study because “the methodology used is unclear” but added that its own bottles had “food grade packaging”.
It pointed out that there are no regulations on microplastics or a scientific consensus on how to test for them, and it also highlighted a much smaller German study last year that found plastic particles in single use bottles but not above a statistically significant amount.
PepsiCo said Aquafina had “rigorous quality control measures sanitary manufacturing practices, filtration and other food safety mechanisms which yield a reliably safe product”.
It described the science of microplastics as “an emerging field, in its infancy, which requires further scientific analysis, peer-reviewed research and greater collaboration across many stakeholders”.”