Tests on major brands of bottled water have found that nearly all of them contained tiny particles of plastic. Research led by a journalism organisation Orb Media discovered an average of 10 plastic particles per litre, each larger than the width of a human hair. In the largest investigation of its kind, 250 bottles bought in nine different countries were examined.
Companies whose brands were tested told the BBC that their bottling plants were operated to the highest standards. The tests were conducted at the State University of New York in Fredonia.
Currently, there is no evidence that ingesting very small pieces of plastic (microplastics) can cause harm, but understanding the potential implications is an active area of science.
Sherri Mason, a professor of chemistry at the university, conducted the analysis and told BBC News: “We found [plastic] in bottle after bottle and 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.”
Experts have told the BBC that people in developing countries where tap water may be polluted should continue to drink water from plastic bottles.
Contacted to comment on the findings, the companies behind the brands have insisted that their products meet the highest standards for safety and quality.
PepsiCo said Aquafina had “rigorous quality control measures sanitary manufacturing practices, filtration and other food safety mechanisms which yield a reliably safe product”.
Coca-Cola said it had some of the most stringent quality standards in the industry and used a “multi-step filtration process”. But it too acknowledged that microplastics “appear to be ubiquitous and therefore may be found at minute levels even in highly treated products”.