Science 4 min read

Microplastics Discovered in 93 Percent of Popular Bottled Water Brands

Tarasyuk Igor /

Tarasyuk Igor /

A new study has confirmed that over 90 percent of bottled water from some of the world’s most popular brands contain microplastics.

According to reports, the World Health Organization has ordered a review into the health risks posed by plastic in drinking water. A recent study revealed that 93 percent of bottled water from a number of world-renowned brands contains microplastics.

The new study was conducted by researchers from the State University of New York in Fredonia. They commissioned Orb Media, a non-profit journalism organization, to analyze the bottled waters.

The researchers analyzed 259 bottles of water from 11 different brands in 19 locations across nine countries. The countries involved include The United States, Brazil, China, Indonesia, India, Lebanon, Mexico, Thailand, and Kenya. The results of the analysis showed that a liter of water being sold has an average of 314 particles of plastic.

A part of the report released by the Orb Media read:

“For plastic particles in the 100 micron, or 0.10 millimeter size range, tests conducted for Orb at the State University of New York [Fredonia] 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.”

Microplastics in Bottled Water

The researchers reportedly used a dye known as Nile Red to identify the microplastics. This kind of dye binds itself to the free-floating plastic pieces, causing them to fluoresce. The scientists discovered that in a liter of water, there was an average of 10 particles of plastic larger than the size of human hair.

Out of all the bottled water tested, only 17 had no microplastics. A total of 11 brands were analyzed including Nestlé Pure Life, Evian, Dasani and San Pellegrino.

The study comes just after an earlier water analysis confirmed the existence of microplastics in tap water, sea salt, beer, and fish.

“What we do know is that some of these particles are big enough that, once ingested, they are probably excreted but along the way they can release chemicals that cause known human health impacts,” Sherri Mason, a professor from the State University of New York in Fredonia, told the BBC.

“Some of these particles are so incredibly small that they can actually make their way across the gastrointestinal tract, across the lining and be carried throughout the body, and we don’t know the implications of what that means on our various organs and tissues.”

It is not yet clear how the plastic particles got into the bottled water. However, Abigail Barrows, who conducted the research for Story of Stuff in her laboratory in Maine, offered a possible explanation. She said:

“Plastic microfibres are easily airborne. Clearly, that’s occurring not just outside but inside factories. It could come in from fans or the clothing being worn.”

The bottled water companies involved in the study were not particularly happy with what the researchers did. In a statement to CBC, Nestlé aired its dismay.

“We still cannot understand how the study reached the conclusions it did,” the company said. “The research results do not correspond to the internal analyses that we conduct on a regular basis.”

On the other hand, Evian and Aqua told Orb that it is “not in a position to comment as the testing methodology used is unclear. There is still limited data on the topic, and conclusions differ dramatically from one study to another.”

At the moment, no one knows precisely what the effects of microplastics are when ingested by humans. Thus, the new study only highlights the need for further investigation into microplastic exposure.

Do you believe that the 11 brands tested in the study should recall their products?

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Chelle Fuertes

Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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