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Top bottled water brands contaminated with plastic particles: Study

MIAMI The world's leading brands of bottled water are contaminated with plastic particles that are likely seeping in during the packaging process, according to a study published on Wednesday.

"Widespread contamination" with plastic was found in the study, led by microplastic researcher Sherri Mason of the State University of New York at Fredonia, according to a summary released by Orb Media, a US-based non-profit media collective.

Researchers tested 250 bottles of water in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Thailand and the United States.

Plastic was identified in 93 per cent of the samples, which included major name brands such as Aqua, Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, Nestle Pure Life and San Pellegrino.

The plastic debris included polypropylene, nylon and polyethylene terephthalate, which is used to make bottle caps.

Dr Mason said: "I think it is coming through the process of bottling the water. I think that most of the plastic that we are seeing is coming from the bottle itself, it is coming from the cap, it is coming from the industrial process of bottling the water."

Particle concentration ranged from "zero to more than 10,000 likely plastic particles in a single bottle," said the report.

On average, plastic particles in the 100 micron (0.1mm) size range - considered "microplastics" - were found at an average rate of 10.4 plastic particles a litre. Smaller particles were more common - averaging about 325 a litre.

Experts cautioned that the extent of the risk to human health posed by such contamination remains unclear.

"There are connections to increases in certain kinds of cancer to lower sperm count to increases in conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism," said Dr Mason."We know they are connected to these synthetic chemicals in the environment, and we know that plastics are providing kind of a means to get those chemicals into our bodies."

The study used a technique developed by the University of East Anglia (UEA) in England to "see" microplastic particles by staining them with Nile red dye, which makes plastic fluorescent when irradiated with blue light.

Lead researcher Andrew Mayes, from UEA's school of chemistry, said it has been independently reviewing the study and "the results stack up". - AFP

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