- Bottled water has twice the amount of microplastic in it that tap water does, according to a new report.
- Some plastic bottles have as many as 10,000 of these microplastic parts in a single litre.
- They’re often the same kind of plastic that is used to make the bottle caps.
When you drink from a plastic bottle of fresh H20, you’re sipping more than just water.
A new report from Orb Media reveals how major bottled water brands, including Aquafina, Dasani, Nestle and Evian all have tens, hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of microplastic particles floating in their products. These microparticles are typically about the same thickness as a single strand of human hair, and scientists don’t know yet what gulping them down might be doing to our bodies.
It turns out, we’re all drinking a bit of microplastic in our water. But plastic bottled water drinkers have it worse.
In the Orb study, conducted at the Fredonia State University of New York labs, researchers sampled 259 water bottles purchased from 19 different locations in nine countries around the world.
They confirmed the average 1-litre water bottle has around 10.4 tiny plastic particles inside that we swallow when drinking.
And they think there may be more, smaller plastic particles than that. Using a microscope and fluorescent dye, the researchers found around 315 tiny microparticles, on average, per bottle. They think those are probably little bits of plastic, but they’re not quite sure.
Almost all of the bottles sampled (a full 93%,) had microplastics inside. Some bottles had none, but others had as many as 10,000 microparticles inside a single litre. Many of the microparticles were the exact same kind of plastic that bottle caps are made from, suggesting that flecks of cap are probably spilling into the drinks.
Bottled water companies were quick to respond to the new study.
Nestle said in a statement that it has tested a range of its bottled water products for the presence of microplastics, and has not found any proof of their existence “beyond a trace level.” The company also noted the lack of evidence that microplastics have a harmful effect on human health.
“There are a number of technical challenges involved with detecting intrinsic micro-plastic compounds in water samples. Indeed, testing methodologies must ensure that results are free from environmental context contamination and that they avoid the counting of false-positives related to compounds naturally present in water,” Nestle wrote. “We are ready to collaborate with others to further develop the robustness and standardization of testing methods for micro plastics.”
Dasani told Business Insider in a statement, “We stand by the safety of our products, and welcome continued study of plastics in our environment. It’s clear the world has a problem with plastic waste and that too much of it ends up in waterways and in the world’s oceans.”
Aquafina had a similar statement, insisting that the way the company bottles its water is clean and subject to strict quality controls. The company said that “the science on micro-plastics and microfibers is an emerging field, in its infancy, which requires further scientific analysis.”
Representatives from Evian were not immediately available for comment.
Microplastics come out of the tap, too.
They’re like a dust of the modern world, contaminating just about everything from our salt to our seas. But the researchers in this study found that on average, bottled water drinkers are ingesting twice as much microplastic as tap water drinkers.
Marc Edwards, a civil engineer who was one of the first to sound the alarm about dangerously high levels of lead in the water in Flint, Michigan told Business Insider earlier this year that “it is not possible to achieve zero health risk” with any drinking water.
Still, the World Health Organisation is taking note of the new find.
WHO Spokesman Tarik Jašarević told Business Insider in an email that the organisation is looking for new ways to better assess whether there’s any risk involved in drinking microplastics. “Currently there is no evidence on impacts to human health,” Jašarević said.