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Study finds that 90% of bottled water contains tiny plastic particles

16 March 2018, 01:20 | Melanie Burgess

There is no evidence that consuming such small particles of plastic has any ill health effects Credit zoranm E

There is no evidence that consuming such small particles of plastic has any ill health effects

Microplastics have been found in samples of bottled water analysed from around the world as part of a major new study.

For plastic particles in the 100 micron, or 0.10 millimetre size range, tests conducted for Orb at the State University of NY revealed a global average of 10.4 plastic particles per litre.

The study, by journalism organization Orb Media and researchers at the State University of NY at Fredonia, found an average of 10.4 microplastic particles about the width of a human hair per liter. However, Orb Media found that one of the microplastics was detected to be polypropylene, which is commonly found in bottle caps.

Both Gerolsteiner, a German water brand, and Nestle, have questioned the results of the Orb Media report. The bottles analysed were bought in the US, China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Lebanon, Kenya and Thailand. Only 17 of those bottles were free of plastic contamination.

Other, smaller particles were also discovered - 314 of them per litre, on average - which some of the experts consulted about the Orb study believe are plastics but can not definitively identify. The tests also showed a much greater number of even smaller particles that researchers said were also "likely plastic".

Interestingly, when the researchers studied samples of the same brand which came in glass bottles instead of plastic, there was considerably less plastic contamination in the water packaged in glass bottles.

The popularity of bottled water has scientists and governments increasingly concerned about the effects of microplastic pollution.

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The three-month study used a technique developed by the University of East Anglia's School of Chemistry to "see" microplastic particles by staining them using fluorescent Nile Red dye, which makes plastic fluorescent when irradiated with blue light.

Microbeads - tiny plastic beads found in some beauty products that were banned in the U.S.in 2015 - are another source of plastics in water.

"Under certain wavelengths of light it causes them to sparkles likes stars in the night sky", Sherri Mason of the State University of NY said. There were an average of four plastic particles per liter. The company suggested that Nile Red dye is known to "generate false positives". "However, we will continue to monitor the reporting of the findings", said Rachmat.

"This is pretty substantial", Mayes said.

The study found an average of 10.4 microplastic particles per liter of bottled water, which is twice as much as that found in a previous study on tap water.

"If your tap water is of high quality, that's always better", said Scott Belcher, professor of toxicology at North Carolina State University.

Anything smaller than five millimetres in size (5,000 microns) is considered microplastic. Gerolsteiner said its own testing also showed far fewer than Orb's. The American Beverage Association said it "stood by the safety" of its bottled water, adding that the science around microplastics was only just emerging.

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