Channel 2 Investigates

Your bottled water is probably contaminated with tiny plastic particles, researchers find

Bottled water is big business with $200 billion in sales worldwide. Many drink it because they believe its healthier than sodas or tap water.

But one researcher says bottled water isn't so pure. She says there’s a good chance you may be ingesting tiny plastic particles when you drink out of plastic bottles.

In the U.S., bottled water sales have surpassed carbonated soft drinks.

Research finds microplastics in bottled water

So how pure is the water in plastic bottles? We traveled to the State University of New York at Fredonia where researchers had already found plastics in tap water, but found twice as much in bottled water.

They tested 11 brands from around the world and found tiny particles called microplastics in 93 percent of them

“Like a period at the end of a sentence or a grain of salt, that kind of size,” lead researcher Dr. Sherri Mason said.


Mason, a chemistry professor, was surprised at the level of microplastics her team found in popular brands.

“On average, in every bottle we tested, we found 325 pieces of microplastics within each liter of bottled water,” she said.

What brands had the most?

Coca-Cola’s Dasani bottles ranged from 2 to 335 particles, Pepsi's Aquafina ranged from 2 to 1,295 particles and Nestle’s Pure Life ranged 6 to more than 10,000 particles.

Mason says the type of plastic chemicals she found are the same used to manufacture bottles and caps, including industrial lubricants in 4 percent of the samples.

“The plastic is getting in the water through the actual industrial process of bottling the water,” she theorized.

We wanted to ask Coke about Mason’s findings. They initially declined to comment, but later sent this statement.

'"The quality of our products and safety of our consumers are of paramount importance to us and we take them extremely seriously.

"We have some of the most stringent quality standards in the industry, and the water we use in our drinks is subject to multi-step filtration processes prior to production.  As Orb Media’s own reporting has shown, microscopic plastic fibers appear to be ubiquitous, and therefore may be found at minute levels even in highly treated products. 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.   We are working to play our part to help address this through our global sustainable packaging plan – “World Without Waste.”  We are adopting a holistic plan to focus on reducing the impact of our packaging throughout its entire lifecycle, from how bottles are designed and made to how they are collected, recycled and repurposed.  We have set ourselves the target of collecting and recycling the equivalent of every package we sell globally by 2030."

Pepsi sent us a statement, saying the science of microplastics is an emerging field that needs more scientific analysis.

Nestle invited us to Paris to interview their scientists. We said yes, but they changed their mind. Instead, they sent us a video they made to defend their bottled water

“To produce Nestle Pure Life, Nestle’s waters uses very high performing filters able to remove even smaller than one micron. This means one hundred times smaller than the length of a single hair,” the video statement said.

Nestle also criticized Mason’s methodology, saying they have state of the art equipment that can identify every particle collected.

“So, we can clearly differentiate other compounds, like minerals naturally present in the water,” Nestle said.

In the statement, Nestle says they have detected trace amounts of microplastic, but their numbers were 0 to 12.

Is it harmful to your health?

While scientists debate testing methods and numbers, consumers want to know if drinking plastic is harmful.

“In this case, I think we're so early in the process of identifying something that's there, and we really can't say that it causes harm by any means, but I think it is an important first step,” said toxicologist Dr. Michael Lynch.

Mason says her research has caused the scientific community to start looking at how plastic affects us.

“I'm really excited to see the World Health Organization has come out and called for a human impact study as a result of our work,” she said.

The International Bottled Water Association sent us a statement saying, “Consumers can remain confident in the safety and quality of bottled water products.”

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