- 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 liter. 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-liter 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 liter. 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 Organization is taking note of the new find.
WHO Spokesman Tarik Jašarević told Business Insider in an email that the organization 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.
Nestle and Micro-Plastics In the Water You Drink
MICROPLASTICS FOUND IN GLOBAL BOTTLED WATER
FLUORESCING MICROSCOPIC PIECES OF PLASTIC SWIRL IN A BOTTLE OF WATER DURING TESTS AT THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK IN FREDONIA. WATCH VIDEO
The mercury sprints past 30 degrees Celsius most days on Brazil’s world-famous Copacabana Beach.
Marcio Silva has walked untold miles here selling bottled water from a cooler to local sun-worshippers and sunburnt tourists alike—half a liter of convenient refreshment and defense against dehydration.
“I drink water because water is life, water is health, water is everything,” says Silva, who is 51. “I drink it and sell it to others.”
“I don’t want to sell something bad to people.”
The water looks clear, clean, unsullied. So does the bottle. For some, it’s a container of convenience. For others, it’s a hedge against dirty or unsafe tap water.
Bottled water is marketed as the very essence of purity. It's the fastest-growing beverage market in the world, valued at US$147 billion1 per year.
But new research by Orb Media, a nonprofit journalism organization based in Washington, D.C., shows that a single bottle can hold dozens or possibly even thousands of microscopic plastic particles.
Tests on more than 250 bottles from 11 brands reveal contamination with plastic including polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
When contacted by reporters, two leading brands confirmed their products contained microplastic, but they said Orb's study significantly overstates the amount.
For plastic particles in the 100 micron, or 0.10 millimeter size range, tests conducted for Orb at the State University of New York revealed a global average of 10.4 plastic particles per liter. These particles were confirmed as plastic using an industry standard infrared microscope.
The tests also showed a much greater number of even smaller particles that researchers said are also likely plastic. The global average for these particles was 314.6 per liter.
“It's disheartening, I mean, it's sad,” said Peggy Apter, a real estate investor in Carmel, Indiana. “I mean, what's the world come to? Why can't we have just clean, pure water?”
Some of the bottles we tested contained so many particles that we asked a former astrophysicist to use his experience counting stars in the heavens to help us tally these fluorescing constellations.
Sizes ranged from the width of a human hair down to the size of a red blood cell. Some bottles had thousands. A few effectively had no plastic at all.
One bottle had a concentration of more than 10,000 particles per liter.
Bottled water evokes safety and convenience in a world full of real and perceived threats to personal and public health.
Packaged drinking water is a lifeline for many of the 2.1 billion people worldwide who lack access to safe tap water.2 The danger is clear: Some 4,000 children die every day from water-borne diseases, according to the World Health Organization.3
Humans need approximately two liters of fluids a day to stay hydrated and healthy—even more in hot and arid regions.
Orb’s findings suggest that a person who drinks a liter of bottled water a day might be consuming tens of thousands of microplastic particles each year.
TweetHow this might affect your health, and that of your family, is still something of a mystery.
BOTTLES OF WATER FROM THE SAME BRAND CONTAINED A WIDE RANGE OF PLASTIC CONTAMINATION, WITH PARTICLES AS SMALL AS 6.5 MICRONS. THIS VARIABILITY IS “SIMILAR TO WHAT IS SEEN WHEN WE SAMPLE OPEN BODIES OF WATER” FOR MICROPLASTIC POLLUTION, PROFESSOR MASON SAYS.
TESTING THE WATERS
Bottled water manufacturers emphasized their products met all government requirements.
Gerolsteiner, a German bottler, said its tests "have come up with a significantly lower quantity of microparticles per liter," than found in Orb's study.
Nestle tested six bottles from three locations after an inquiry from Orb Media. Those tests, said Nestle Head of Quality Frederic de Bruyne, showed between zero and five plastic particles per liter.
None of the other bottlers agreed to make public results of their tests for plastic contamination.
"We stand by the safety of our bottled water products," the American Beverage Association said in a statement.
Anca Paduraru, a food safety spokeswoman for the European Commission, said that while microplastic is not directly regulated in bottled water, "legislation makes clear there must be no contaminants." The U.S. doesn't have specific rules for microplastic in food and beverages.
Our test of top bottled water brands from countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas was conducted at Professor Sherri Mason’s lab at the State University of New York in Fredonia, near the Canadian border on the frigid banks of Lake Erie.
Mason’s tests were able to record microplastic particles as small as 6.5 microns, or 0.0065 millimeters.
The invisible plastic in bottled water hides in plain sight.
To reveal it, Mason and her colleagues used a special dye, an infrared laser and a blue light like those used by crime-scene investigators.
Under a laminar airflow hood that sucks dust and airborne particles up and away, each bottle was infused with a dye called Nile Red that binds to plastic polymer. The dyed water was then poured through a glass fiber filter.
When viewed through a microscope, under the blue beam of the crime light, with the aid of orange goggles, the residue from each bottle glowed with the flame-colored fluorescence of sometimes thousands of particles.
“This is pretty substantial,” said Andrew Mayes, senior lecturer in chemistry at the University of East Anglia, and developer of the Nile Red method. “I've looked in some detail at the finer points of the way the work was done, and I'm satisfied that it has been applied carefully and appropriately, in a way that I would have done it in my lab.” The study has not been peer reviewed.
Particles over approximately 100 microns were confirmed to be plastic by both Nile Red and Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectrometry (FTIR). Because particles between 6.5 and 100 microns were not analyzed by FTIR, Mason left open the possibility that their number could include other, unknown, contaminants in addition to plastic, though rationally expected to be plastic. As with all science, future methods may allow for even more accurate identification of the tiny particles.
Fluorescing particles that were too small to be analyzed by FTIR should be called "probable microplastic," said Andrew Mayes, senior lecturer in chemistry at the University of East Anglia, because "some of it might be another, unknown, substance to which Nile Red stain is adhering." Mayes developed the Nile Red method for identifying microplastic.
De Bruyne, of Nestle, noted that Mason's tests did not include a step in which biological substances are removed from the sample. Therefore, he said, some of the fluorescing particles could be false positives - natural material that the Nile Red had also stained. He didn't specify what that material would be.
Mason noted that the so-called "digestion step" is used on debris-filled samples from the ocean or the seashore, and wasn't needed for bottled water. "Certainly they are not suggesting that pure, filtered, pristine water is likely to have wood, algae, or chitin [prawn shells] in it?" she said.
Some researchers say consuming microplastics in food and water might not be a serious issue.
“Based on what we know so far about the toxicity of microplastics—and our knowledge is very limited on that—I would say that there is little health concern, as far as we know,” says Martin Wagner, a toxicologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. “I mean, that's quite logical because I believe that our body is very well-adapted in dealing with those non-digestible particles.”
Wagner says, Orb’s bottled water findings are “a very illuminative example of how intimate our contact with plastic is.”
“Plastic doesn’t need to travel through the oceans and into fish for you to consume it,” he says. “You get it right from the supermarket.”
The 2016 evaluation by the European Union estimated that for microplastics consumed with shellfish, “only the smallest fraction may penetrate deeply into organs,”4 and that our exposure to toxins through this contact is low.
But according to Jane Muncke, managing director and chief scientist at the Food Packaging Forum, a Zurich-based research organization, those estimates are largely based on scientific models, and not laboratory studies.
“What does it mean if we have this large amount of microplastic bits in food?” Muncke says. “Is there some kind of interaction in the gastrointestinal tract with these microparticles... which then could potentially lead to chemicals being taken up, getting into the human body?”
“We don't have actual experimental data to confirm that assumption,” Muncke says. “We don't know all the chemicals in plastics, even... There's so many unknowns here. That, combined with the highly likely population-wide exposure to this stuff—that's probably the biggest story here. I think it's something to be concerned about.”
MICROPLASTICS ARE NOW FOUND IN ALL WATER SOURCES
So what's best, bottled or tap?
Orb's 2017 tap water study and our current bottled water research used different methods to identify microplastic within globally sourced samples.
Still, there is room to compare their results.
For microplastic debris around 100 microns in size, about the diameter of a human hair, bottled water samples contained nearly twice as many pieces of microplastic per liter (10.4) than the tap water samples (4.45).
Can the world’s consumers stomach drinking microplastic?
“Please name one human being on the entire planet who wants plastic in his or her bottle,” said Erik Solheim, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program. “They will all hate it.”
“It’s the government's responsibility to educate people to know what they're drinking and eating,” Apter said, “and how we can prevent this from continuing.”
The tiny bits of plastic swirling around in bottled water are a researcher’s quarry and a kitchen-table quandary.
TweetPeople “have a right to accurate and relevant information about the quality and safety of any product they consume,” said Lisa Lefferts, senior scientist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a U.S.-based advocacy organization. “Since consumers are paying a premium for bottled water, the onus is on the bottled water companies to show their product is worth the extra cost.”
ENJOY READING THE FULL ORB MULTIMEDIA REPORT ONLINE
Nestle's Bottled Water Filled With Microplastics, Lawsuit Claims
By Molly Zilli, Esq. - April 17, 2018
When it comes to healthy living, weight loss, getting in shape, and the like, we're constantly being told to drink more water. But what if even your water isn't good for you?
A class action lawsuit filed against Nestle claims that the company engaged in deceptive marketing because their bottled water, Pure Life, is not so pure and contains microplastics, according to a recent study.
Study: Nestle the Brand with Highest Contamination
The bottled water study was conducted by State University of New York and Orb Media, a nonprofit journalism organization. They tested more than 250 bottles of water from 11 brands and found that 93 percent showed some level of microplastic contamination, with Nestle's being the highest.
However, Nestle's own tests showed a much lower number. Additionally, Orb's study cited a 2016 report on plastic in seafood by the European Food Safety Authority which found that up to 90 percent of microplastic particles consumed by a person can travel through the gut without a trace.
Nestle Accused of Negligently, Recklessly Concealing Truth
According to the complaint, the lead plaintiff, Cindy Baker and her family purchased and drank Nestle Pure Life water on multiple occasions within the last year. The lawsuit says Nestle "intentionally, negligently and recklessly concealed and omitted the truth" about the quality and purity of their bottled water.
Specifically, they contend that Nestle engaged in deceptive marketing which misled consumers about the water's geographic origins and health benefits. Nestle is standing by the integrity of their brand and is prepared to defend themselves "vigorously." According to the Orb study, the bottled water industry is the fastest-growing beverage market worldwide, valued at $147 billion per year.
Lawsuit Demands Nestle Stop Sales and Pay Restitution
Because of the microplastics contamination, the lawsuit demands that the company stop production and sales of their Nestle Pure Life Purified drinking water and "pay full restitution to all affected California consumers." In total, Baker is seeking certification of the class action, damages, restitution, and disgorgement.
Not all illnesses and injuries caused by things we consume are the fault of food and beverage manufacturers. However, some are. If you think you were harmed by a company's product, speak with an attorney to assess the strength of your case.
By MARTIN MACIAS JR - 04.
LOS ANGELES (CN) – A lawsuit claiming food and beverage giant Nestle misled consumers about its water quality by allowing high levels of microplastics in its products was dismissed by a federal judge.
Los Angeles resident Cindy Baker claimed in her April 12, 2018, federal class action lawsuit that the Switzerland-based company intentionally and recklessly concealed facts about the quality and purity of its Pure Life purified water.
Nestle’s deceptive marketing misrepresented the geographic origins and quality of its water and added that consumers were made to believe that Nestle’s water offered them health benefits, the complaint said.
Baker also said Nestle broke a number of state and federal laws and sought an injunction barring the company from selling and advertising Pure Life water.
Nestle sought dismissal of the suit, saying in court papers that Baker’s complaint failed to allege sufficient facts, that her state law claims were preempted and the suit should be tossed under the primary jurisdiction doctrine, which applies when a claim should first be heard by an administrative body.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips said in a 7-page order Thursday that her concerns about water quality and microplastics in Nestle water should be addressed by the Food and Drug Administration, not by the courts.
“Congress has placed the issues raised in Plaintiff’s complaint—the labeling of bottled water as pure or purified—squarely within the jurisdiction of the FDA and depend on the FDA’s expertise,” the order said.
Phillips also wrote that Baker’s state law violation claims are expressly preempted by Section 403A of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which says no state can create a food safety standard that is not identical to federal requirements.
As part of the order, Phillips granted Baker leave to amend the complaint but cautioned that any amendments should not be frivolous or contain the same deficiencies as the first complaint.
Baker’s attorney Christopher Hamner said in a statement that an amended complaint will be filed.
A Nestle Waters North America spokesperson said in a statement that the company is pleased with the court’s ruling.
A study by State University of New York and Orb Media released in March found more than 90 percent of several top brands of bottled water are contaminated with tiny pieces of plastic known as microplastics.
The study examined 11 top bottled water brands from Asia, Europe, Africa and North America, and found 93 percent showed some level of microplastics contamination. Nestle bottles contained 10,000 pieces of microplastics per liter, the highest level of any brand examined according to the researchers.
Some of the microplastics the researchers found in Nestle’s water included polypropylene, nylon and polythylene terephthalate.
Nestle conducted its own testing and found “between zero and five plastic particles per liter,” according to Nestle’s head of quality Frederic de Bruyne. They were the only company from the study to publish results of its independent studies, according to Orb Media.