PITTSBURGH — New research that shows the bottled water labeled "clean" and "pure" that you are buying from grocery stores actually has hundreds of tiny pieces of plastic in it. A world health group is now studying what that could mean.
The research started after a group at the State University of New York at Fredonia found microplastics in tap water. Bottled water is bottled tap water, so the researchers wanted to find out if there is just as much plastic in bottled water. They discovered there is more.
Americans drink about 50 billion bottles of water a year. Researchers took a look at 259 bottles from 11 brands of water and found microplastics in 93 percent of them.
"Microplastics are just really any piece of plastic that is smaller than 1 millimeter in size," said SUNY Fredonia professor and researcher Sherri Mason. "So, think of a period at the end of the sentence or a grain of salt or a grain of sand."
The team found twice as much plastic in bottled water as it had in tap water.
A bottle of Evian water had up to 256 pieces of plastic. Dasani had as many as 300 pieces. Aquafina had nearly 1,300 pieces of plastic and one bottle of Nestle Pure Life had more than 10,000 pieces.
"On average, within every liter of bottled water, we tested we found 325 pieces of microplastic," Mason said.
The World Health Organization responded quickly to the research. It immediately launched an investigation into the health risks of these microplastics.
Channel 11 went to Pittsburgh Poison Control to see what local health experts thought of the find.
"I couldn't say that we can prove that it is harmful, but we certainly can't prove that it isn't, either," said toxicologist Michael Lynch.
Lynch told us the effects depend on the amount of plastic you're ingesting. He thinks it is unlikely such small pieces could cause health problems, but it is too soon to tell.
"I think, really, that's what this comes down to is just knowledge and understanding and allowing people to make their decisions," Lynch said.
Researchers said the plastic found in tap water is a kind of plastic believed to come from the air. The plastic found in the bottled water is the same kind used to make the bottle and cap.
"What it is telling me is that the plastic is getting into the water through the actual industrial process of bottling the water," Mason said.
Pepsi, the maker of Aquafina, did not comment on the research.
Coca-Cola, the maker of Dasani, said in part:
Nestle claimed its water testing is more advanced than the testing used by the researchers and said it has equipment that removes any contaminants.
Mason said she didn't do the research to expose particular brands of bottled water. She wanted to prove how common it has become these days to have plastic in the things we drink and eat.
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