So, this is gross.
It turns out that sea salt isn't the only grocery item to regularly contain particles of microplastics. A recent study by journalism non-profit Orb Media has found microplastics in 93% of the 250 bottled water samples it tested. Samples were purchased around the world, and from 11 different major brands.
Specifically, tests conducted at the State University of New York—on behalf of Orb—revealed a global average of 10.4 plastic particles sized in the 100 micron, or 0.10 millimeter size range, per liter. Worryingly, the tests also showed an average pf 314.6 particles per liter of much smaller particles which most likely were plastic, but couldn't be confirmed as such due to the (relatively unlikely) danger of false positives.
It's important to remember that smaller does not necessarily mean safer.
In fact, as mentioned in my recent story about record levels of microplastic contamination in an English river, some scientists have been sounding alarm bells about microscopic plastic particles in particular. Clearly, given their prevalence in our environment, our bottled water (and our tap water too!), it's likely we're all ingesting them on a regular basis. Some particles are small enough to potentially pass through our membranes and into our blood streams.
We don't yet know what that means for our bodies, but my guess is we should probably not add to the problem until somebody has figured it out. Given that bottled water doesn't just contain microplastics, but directly and massively contributes to the burden of plastics in our environment, this seems like one more good, solid reminder that if you're in a community where tap water quality is safe, then to skip the bottles and go for refills instead.
In the meantime, Business Green reports that—following this latest study—the World Health Organization has launched a review of the health implications of microplastics in drinking water.