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Plastic particles in bottled water

  1. Apr 2, 2018 #1
    So recently news broke about there being plastic particles/contaminants inside major brand water bottles (plastic), so since I don't drink bottles water but use some plastic bottles myself to fill in some fresh water from the local forest I then wonder how did the plastic particles got in the bottles in the first place? Is that because of some sort of mechanism used in the bottle fill up or are those particles coming from the bottle itself, and if so do they continue to accumulate in used plastic bottles that have been filled and emptied many times before, as in my situation?


    Above all I am not that well versed in chemistry but how dangerous it is exactly to have some minor amount of ordinary plastics like Polyethylene and others digested in the body? I read in other places that those particles aren't absorbed due to their different molecular weight and chemical properties unlike those of food and so get largely extracted out of the body and don't accumulate.
    some expert opinion on this matter would be welcome, thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 2, 2018 #2
    Could it have to do with recycling? (Just an idea)
    [I used to prefer bottle watter (usually plastic), but now I use a good tap filter, still filling up bottles though, as you ...]
  4. Apr 2, 2018 #3


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    See the previous discussion here: https://www.physicsforums.com/threa...d-water-brands-contaminated-w-plastic.942220/

    The article cited in the OP suggested that the plastic may come from processing of the bottles, so reuse of the bottles might not produce the same contamination with plastic particles. It also seems like it's very unclear whether the particles would cause any health problems. My guess would be that the health risks from the plastic particles would be less than the risks of drinking untreated water from a forest.
  5. Apr 2, 2018 #4
    I've always thought of finished plastic (of that type) as uniform and stable. It might be the use of recycling plastic that degrades it (like paper). I am not sure though. This is just a guess. I will try to look into 'recycling bottles', but I doubt they have announced anything official yet. Other than that, it could also be just the original construction [of those plasic bottles] too.
    I agree that reusing the same bottle seems safe, but Caution, not many times, as bacteria or other micro-organisms tend to accumulate on the walls of [any type of] bottles (including glass). Only thorough cleaning with detergent and brush would make an 'old - many times used' bottle ~brand new again ...
    From the OP quoted source:
    "Sherri Mason, a professor of chemistry at the university, conducted the analysis and told BBC News: "We found [plastic] in bottle after bottle and brand after brand.

    "It's not about pointing fingers at particular brands; it's really showing that this is everywhere, that plastic has become such a pervasive material in our society, and it’s pervading water - all of these products that we consume at a very basic level."

    Currently, there is no evidence that ingesting very small pieces of plastic (microplastics) can cause harm, but understanding the potential implications is an active area of science.

    _100423734_2b6578e0-430a-417b-bc15-1337b51b9d75.jpg Image copyrightORB MEDIA
    Image captionAfter filtration, the larger particles - yellow marks - are easy to see

    Commenting on the results, Prof Mason said: "It's not catastrophic, the numbers that we're seeing, but it is concerning."

    Experts have told the BBC that people in developing countries where tap water may be polluted should continue to drink water from plastic bottles.
  6. Apr 2, 2018 #5
    I read from a site a long time ago (I forget which one but it was reliable) that overtime some particles will get into the water but it is so small that it is negligible. I will try to re-find the site but I doubt I will find the same one. Also according to the site if you leave the container mostly filled in the light it acts as a magnifying glass and can start fires as well as melt the case bit by bit causing particles to get in, and only then is it harmful (although not much). I will try to double check if this is accurate
  7. Apr 2, 2018 #6
  8. Apr 5, 2018 #7
    The trouble is that this sort of story is very common and often targets specific companies. Coca Cola has been the target of several, the last one was a colorless worm in their bottled water & I notice Nestle water was identified as one of the worst. Its interesting that the same contaminant has been claimed to be present in tap water and in water bottled in glass. Apparently its found across the world, regardless of the source and somehow escapes the quality control systems of both companies and public health bodies. Apparently the various theories about recycled plastic, heating and freezing etc all lack credibility, there have been similar stories linking plastic bottles to cancer.
    Some fairly recent published research that found plastic micro-particles in fish for human consumption had to be retracted, the researchers were also active environmentalists and further investigation lead to more retractions.
    Its a good example of how public perception can be manipulated when certain products are demonized, these tactics are common in both environmentalism and in public heath. Its worth considering the next time you read about the public's crisis in confidence in science, its nothing to do with ignorance, its the fact that a great deal of information masquerades as science and undermines its credibility.
  9. Apr 14, 2018 #8

    Fervent Freyja

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    A small amount of cross-contamination for all packaged food and beverages should be expected. Few materials used to package products create rigid enough boundaries to prevent cross-contamination during the packaging process and during the natural decay process of the material afterwards. There isn't enough stability in most packaging materials for anyone to claim no cross-contamination occurs.
  10. Apr 24, 2018 #9
    Given that plastic bottled water may contain plastic. Are there any other contaminants there as well? Do they use chlorine?
  11. Apr 24, 2018 #10
    Generally no but this might be effected by the water source. Water bottles from a particular source like a spring is likely to be treated with ozone or UV light which leave no residual taste. However some bottled water is obtained through the municipal water systems some of which will have been chlorinated, these are filtered to remove the chlorine and ozone or UV light is used in the final stages before bottling. This should be done prior to bottling as UV light does effect plastic, the bottled water needs to be stored away from a range of chemical products, including petrochemicals as these might also effect the plastic. The chlorine used in some water treatment is in itself quite volatile and quickly dissipates from the water.
  12. Jun 28, 2018 #11
    I agree with your points and that’s why I have also refused to drink bottles water not only for health concern but also for good environment. Recently, plastic pollution has been found within freshwater lakes, inland seas and rivers.
  13. Jun 28, 2018 #12

    Some plastic contains phthalates which is applied to make it less brittle, this can leach out into the environment in land fill and get into the water system.
    Phthalates are known to cause endocrine disruption.

    Also heavy metals APEOs PFCs cleavable Azos all used in industry contribute to water contamination.
  14. Jun 28, 2018 #13

    jim mcnamara

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    A reminder - when you make claims about 'recent findings' or procedures for water processing for bottling, or sources of problems, please cite something reasonable. Not that these posts are poor, but some are unsubstantiated or excessively vague.

    We really appreciate your help with the topic.
  15. Jun 28, 2018 #14
    Here is a general overview on the sort of pollutants used in Industry https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-physiol-012110-142200

    REACh is also a good source of information on restricted substances https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Registration,_Evaluation,_Authorisation_and_Restriction_of_Chemicals

    Phthalates are examples of an SVHC within REACh legislation


  16. Jun 28, 2018 #15
    Its interesting that you are asking about risks from plastic but you are willing to collect water from the local forest against which the risks from plastic pale into insignificance. It all seems very strange to me in that the effects of plastics on the environment were entirely predictable and simple management of their use earlier would have rendered to current panic unnecessary. In fact in many countries the drinking of expensive bottled water is just the triumph of marketing over sense, in fact a great deal of bottled water comes straight out of the tap.
  17. Jul 2, 2018 #16
    Well in my country we have very clean water and forests and very little factories so the water is clean, the place where im taking it is a spring at my local forest where it naturally comes out of the ground , near that place they also have a borewell for the freshwater that is pumped to the local city which is a small town so my concerns about plastic are far higher than my concerns about fresh underground water rich in minerals etc.
  18. Jul 2, 2018 #17


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    Do your forests have animals in them?

    I sure hope you are filtering and purifying the water before drinking it!
  19. Jul 2, 2018 #18
    Well very few animals maybe some wild pigs but the spring is located in a hole where only people can get in and out and it doesnt come from a surface water pond it comes out directly from deep underground water pathways and it constantly flows so no contamination can get. If someone has a way of performing chemical analysis i would be glad to send them a test dose. :)
  20. Jul 2, 2018 #19


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    These news articles - even the "studies" - I've seen are very high in panic and low in risk analysis. To paraphrase them: "There's plastic in plastic!" Duh, of course there is! So what? Please note: the "article" that spawned the other linked thread was not peer reviewed and more importantly made no claim about health impacts. It is a panic-piece, only.

    I feel like people have seen pictures of fish with their heads caught in soda can rings or heard about the BPA thing and then forgotten what the point of plastics in our food system is to begin with (in addition to practical reasons):

    Plastics are used because they are not biodegradable and, some design failures aside, don't leach into the water like many metals do. That's why aluminum soda cans are coated with plastic inside!

    The same property makes plastics, in general, not harmful if swallowed. They just pass right through you.
  21. Jul 2, 2018 #20
    Yes i believe this was the point made that not everything with a chemically dangerous name is actually dangerous and that some chemical compounds like small pieces of food plastic particles dont interact or get trapped inside our bodies so if that is really the truth then im fine

    Another question maybe is what happens with ocean life like fish getting plastics inside them due to us polluting oceans and then we eat the fish and the chemicals already half degraded get into the food chain isnt there any danger in that?
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