A study by scientists from the State University of New York has found that more than 90 percent of bottled water worldwide, including India, contains tiny pieces of plastic. The researchers tested 259 individual bottles across 11 brands sold in nine countries including Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and the US. Samples in India were drawn from 19 locations in Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. Top global brands including Aquafina, Evian as well as the Indian brand Bisleri were tested. A Bisleri sample from Chennai showed over 5,000 microplastic particles per litre, according to the research team’s data.
Although bottling companies reacted to the study saying they enforce strict quality control, the findings indicating the presence of a carcinogenic substance in the water raises concerns about the long-term implications for public health.
The polypropylene used to make plastic bottle caps were the most common polymeric material (54%) found in the samples while nylon was the second most abundant (16%). After accounting for possible laboratory contamination, 93% of bottled water showed some presence of microplastics. Researchers found an average of 10.4 microplastic particles per litre of bottled water using spectroscopic analysis. This is twice as much as what was found in a previous study on tap water by the same team. The data indicated the contamination is at least partially coming from the packaging or bottling process.
Densities of microplastic contamination varied from zero contamination to one bottle with an excess of 10,000 microplastic particles per litre. Packaged drinking water is a loosely regulated industry in India with hundreds of big and small brands vying for a share of the metro and small town market.
The study specifically mentions the batch number and location of purchase for all the 27 lots of samples containing 259 bottles tested. Only 17 individual bottles showed no microplastic contamination in excess of possible laboratory background.
Chemicals found in plastic bottles are also known to have affected newborn children. A 2013 study by Dr Arbinder Singal, a paediatric urologist with MGM Hospital in Navi Mumbai, found a growing incidence of genital abnormality among newborn boys due to increasing exposure to endocrine disruptor chemicals found in plastic bottles, food wraps, cosmetics and toys.