In September, nonprofit journalism organization Orb Media found that 83 percent of the globe’s tap water contains microscopic plastic fibers. According to a new set of data published by the same Washington, D.C.-based group, much of the world’s bottled water contains the same contaminant — and at even higher levels on average.
“Bottled water evokes safety and convenience in a world full of real and perceived threats to personal and public health,” Orb wrote on its website. But as stated by its findings, the water presumed safe by many might not be as pure as they once thought.
For the study, researchers at the State University of New York tested 250 bottles from 11 different brands. The majority were tainted with microscopic polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate particles, ranging from the width of a human hair to the size of a red blood cell.
It is unclear how this could affect human health.
The results varied not just between brands, but between individual bottles. One bottle of Nestlé Pure Life tested at 10,390 particles per liter, the highest level of plastic out of any sampled,— though most of the brand’s bottles tested much lower and one had as few as six particles. Bisleri (5,230), Gerolsteiner (5,160), and Aqua (4,713) all had at least one bottle with a high concentration of plastic particles.
San Pellegrino reportedly contained the fewest particles of plastic (74 per liter in the most contaminated bottle tested), followed by Evian (256), and Dasani (335). Aquafina, Epura, Minalba, and Wahaha all fell somewhere in the middle.
Every brand tested had at least one bottle with fewer than 10 microparticles per liter, and most had at least one bottle with effectively no microplastic contamination. Still, the researchers found even higher levels of plastic per liter in bottled water on average than the same team had had found in the 2016 study of much-maligned tap water (though it is noted that methods differed between the studies).
The Daily Meal has reached out to each company for comment.
"The quality of our products and safety of our consumers are of paramount importance to us and we take them extremely seriously," a spokesperson for Dasani's parent company, Coca-Cola, told The Daily Meal. "We have some of the most stringent quality standards in the industry, and the water we use in our drinks is subject to multi-step filtration processes prior to production. As Orb Media’s own reporting has shown, microscopic plastic fibers appear to be ubiquitous, and therefore may be found at minute levels even in highly treated products. We stand by the safety of our products, and welcome continued study of plastics in our environment."
Nestlé Waters has also issued a statement claiming that all of its products are safe for consumption.
"Recent scientific investigations show that micro plastics can be present in the natural environment and may even be ingested through the air we breathe. As is the case for many emerging topics, robust evidence is lacking on the potential impact of micro plastics on human health and whether a safe level of exposure needs to be determined. We welcome further research on the possible effects of micro-plastics on human health," a spokesperson for Nestlé Waters told The Daily Meal. "Regardless, we share concerns about this issue and take it seriously. Over the past two years, we have tested a range of our products, including Nestlé Pure Life and S. Pellegrino, for the presence of micro-plastics. Systematic analysis is now part of our Yearly Monitoring Plan for all of our finished products, using state-of-the art devices and techniques for clearer identification of micro-plastic traces and to better determine their origin."
Minalba's response is as follows: "Minalba Águas Minerais explains that the process of extracting and packaging water from the Agua Santa mineral source, located in Campos do Jordão (SP), follows all the quality and safety standards required by Brazilian legislation, rigorously reflecting the maintenance of the mineral properties from nature. Through rigorous laboratory tests and the most modern manufacturing processes, attested by ISO 9000: 2008 Certification, the company reinforces its commitment to the consumer, being in compliance with Resolutions 274/2005 and 275/2002 of the National Health Surveillance (Anvisa), an organ of the Ministry of Health, and Ordinance 374/2009 of the National Department of Mineral Production (DNPM)."
Even though tap and bottled water have both tested positive for plastic, you may want to stick with the former. Not convinced? Here are 10 reasons you shouldn't drink bottled water.
This article has been updated to reflect company statements.