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Study finds microplastics in bottled water

People tend to think of bottled water as untainted. For instance, when we travel, especially to countries with developing infrastructure, we’re given advice to drink bottled water. However, as scientists recently uncovered, consumers may need to update their pristine image of bottled water.

In late 2017, Orb, a non-profit online magazine dedicated to investigative journalism, initiated a study of microplastics in bottled water. The organization enlisted scientists at the State University of New York at Fredonia to conduct the research, and then published the findings.

The lab scientists tested 259 individual bottles of water, from 11 different, well-known brands, available in nine different countries across five continents. To test the bottled waters, they introduced Nile red dye into each bottle. Once the dye was in the bottle, they held it under a specific wavelength of light to make any plastic particles appear fluorescent. One scientist described the bits of plastics as “lighting up like stars in the night sky” during the experiment.

In the end, the study found 93 percent of the bottled water tested showed signs of microplastics. Some of the bottles contained hundreds of microplastics; others contained thousands. Very few had none. On average, each bottle contained approximately 10 particles/bottle. The size of these particles was equal to the width of a human hair or larger. Additionally, scientists found an average of 314 tiny particles/bottle that were invisible to the naked eye; these were likely microplastics, too.

The most common culprit was polypropylene, the plastic used in bottle caps. One working theory suggests bits of plastic are released into the water when someone opens a bottle.

Researcher and professor, Sherri Mason, concluded, “We found in bottle after bottle, 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.”

Thus far, microplastics have largely been the concern of environmental researchers, and it’s still an emerging area of study. Regarding human health, the impact of microplastics is even lesser known. The Coway Aquamega 100 water purification system eliminates plastic water waste and is designed to filter up to 99.% of plastic particles from your water.