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Synthetic Polymer Contamination in Bottled Water

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Scientists test for microplastic contamination in 11 globally sourced brands of bottled water, purchased in 19 locations in nine countries. Of 259 bottles, 93% show clear signs of microplastic contamination. Fragments of microplastic were the most common type detected. A small number of particles showed chemical presence of industrial lubricant chemicals. Data suggests the contamination is at least partially coming from the packaging and/or the bottling process itself. The researchers found roughly twice as many plastic particles within bottled water as compared to tap water on average.

Abstract: “Eleven globally sourced brands of bottled water, purchased in 19 locations in nine different countries, were tested for microplastic contamination using Nile Red tagging. Of the 259 total bottles processed, 93% showed some sign of microplastic contamination. After accounting for possible background (lab) contamination, an average of 10.4 microplastic particles >100 um in size per liter of bottled water processed were found. Fragments were the most common morphology (66%) followed by fibers. Half of these particles were confirmed to be polymeric in nature using FTIR spectroscopy with polypropylene being the most common polymer type (54%), which matches a common plastic used for the manufacture of bottle caps. A small fraction of particles (4%) showed the presence of industrial lubricants. While spectroscopic analysis of particles smaller than 100 um was not possible, the adsorption of the Nile Red dye indicates that these particles are most probably plastic. Including these smaller particles (6.5–100 um), an average of 325 microplastic particles per liter of bottled water was found. Microplastic contamination range of 0 to over 10,000 microplastic particles per liter with 95% of particles being between 6.5 and 100 um in size. Data suggests the contamination is at least partially coming from the packaging and/or the bottling process itself. Given the prevalence of the consumption of bottled water across the globe, the results of this study support the need for further studies on the impacts of micro- and nano- plastics on human health.”

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