Bottled water may not be as safe as it was previously thought, a new study has found.
The study undertaken by microplastic researchers from State University of New York at Fredonia, found that nearly all the bottled water tested were contaminated with tiny plastic particles.
Analysis of 259 bottles from top brands in nine countries across 11 different brands found an average of 325 plastic particles for every litre of water being sold.
In some instances, concentrations were as high as 10,000 plastic pieces for every litre of water. Of the 259 bottles tested, only 17 were free of plastics, according to the study.
Researchers discovered that it was polypropylene fragments that were in the bottled water which is the same type of plastic used to make bottle caps.
When we think about the composition of the plastic, whether there might be toxins in it, to what extent they might carry harmful constituents, what actually the particles might do in the body – there’s just not the research there to tell us-Bruce Gordon
The study found about twice as many plastic particles within bottled water compared with their previous study of tap water, an indication that tap water could be safer.
Although experts are not certain on the health implication of consuming microplastics, some study has shown that they could lead to some form of cancer.
“There are connections to increases in certain kinds of cancer to lower sperm count to increases in conditions like ADHD and autism,” said Sherri Mason of the State University of New York.
In response, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was launching a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water. But the organisation also said that there “is no evidence that microplastics can undermine human health.”
Bruce Gordon, coordinator of the WHO’s global work on water and sanitation, told BBC News that the key question was whether a lifetime of eating or drinking particles of plastic could have an effect.
“When we think about the composition of the plastic, whether there might be toxins in it, to what extent they might carry harmful constituents, what actually the particles might do in the body – there’s just not the research there to tell us,” said Mr Gordon.