Using new measuring methods, scientists have examined mineral waters for, particularly small plastic particles. Even the researchers were surprised by the results.
Microplastics does not only float in rivers, lakes and oceans. Our mineral water also contains the finest plastic particles, which cannot be seen with the naked eye. This is shown by a laboratory test carried out by the “Chemisches und Veterinäruntersuchungsamt Münsterland-Emscher-Lippe”. Using new, extremely fine measuring methods, the scientists examined 38 mineral waters: 22 water from returnable and disposable PET bottles, three from beverage cartons and nine from glass bottles were subjected to so-called Raman microscopy.
The result: all samples were contaminated with microplastics. Around 80 percent of the plastic particles found were in the smallest size range examined and varied between 5 and 20 micrometers. “The first study on microplastics in mineral water shows that the topic affects us more directly than previously assumed,” according to a publication by the researchers.
Most of the particles were found in water from returnable PET bottles – an average of 120 plastic particles per liter. The maximum value was over 200 particles. Due to the nature of the plastics found – above all polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene (PP) – it can be assumed that most of them originate from the bottle shell, but in some cases also from the cap, and were not already contained in the water before. Reusable bottles are made of PET and caps of PP. The particles found in the water in the beverage cartons also indicate that they were released by the packaging itself.
Microplastics also in glass bottles
The results showed “that plastic packaging can also emit microplastic particles that are directly absorbed by the consumer”. Against this background, the scientists recommend: “Further research and analysis should be carried out in the lower micrometer range <50 µm, especially for food packaged in plastic”. Surprising for the researchers was the high microplastic content of some glass bottles, whereby there were fluctuations between the different bottles – even within one type. It is possible that the reason for this can be found in the manufacturing process.
The risk of microplastic to humans has hardly been investigated.
Little is known about the effects of microplastics on humans. Corresponding long-term studies are lacking. Darena Schymanski, one of the scientists involved, told Deutschlandfunk radio that the microplastic found in mineral water does not appear to be toxic to humans. However, it is possible that accumulations will form. “What is conceivable is that the whole thing has to be seen as a foreign body. And defense reactions of the body with inflammations cannot be ruled out. But this is very difficult to assess because there are no studies available yet”. In marine organisms, such as lugworms, studies have already shown that tissue changes and inflammatory reactions have occurred.