When in need of quick hydration or replenishment, most people turn to bottled water. If I could describe bottled water, it is a tightly sealed plastic bottle containing pure water that is perfectly drinkable and free of impurities; many would also propose a similar definition. However, when I came across a CBC article last week, the article title caught my attention immediately: “Microplastics found in 93% of bottled water tested in global study”. Firstly, how could plastic make its way into bottled water? Don’t facilities test their water regularly and make sure they are free of contaminants? Wouldn’t they detect pollutants way before the water even reaches their facilities? As I realized how frequently I drink bottled water, all these questions came to mind. I decided I would need to investigate further and ended up uncovering several more unsettling studies on just how polluted bottled water may be.Before I get into those studies, however, we need to know what exactly microplastics are. Microplastics are pieces of plastic less than five millimeters in length that contaminate every environment especially marine ecosystems. A 2014 study estimated that there is anywhere from 15 to 51 trillion plastic particles in the ocean – numbers of which have certainly spiked since. Last year, several different bottled water brands were tested for any contaminants. The results that turned up shocked me.
What the studies procured
In 2018, studies on 11 different water brands concluded that 93 percent of all bottles tested contained some sort of microplastic. On average, there were 10.4 plastic particles per liter that were 0.10mm or bigger. In addition, there were on average 314 much smaller particles every liter of water which are all suspected to be plastic. McGill university ran the same study and concluded very similar results. Would this negatively impact our health? The question remains unanswered but a scientist pointed out that we should all be concerned that there’s a material that we’re using so prevalently in our society that’s become so ubiquitous.
How could have all this plastic snuck into our water? There is no definitive answer but there are a few possible ways from my perspective. Since plastic waste is everywhere, including on land and in oceans, they would decompose into nanoplastics and would be transported all around the globe by wind or water currents. Eventually, they would end up in freshwater which is where our drinking water comes from. As a matter of fact, this cycle could be easily repeated as plastic takes 450 years to decompose, if ever.
The studies mentioned were not done to blame particular brands, but it clearly shows the widespread consequences plastic usage has, not just on the environment, but also humans. Within three decades, there will be more plastics in the oceans than fish. This can bring detrimental fallouts to marine life and populate landfill patches. Unfortunately, plastic is all too relevant in today’s society to cease usage and is becoming a potential health risk. Granted we can take small steps to mitigate the effects of microplastics, they will always stand in the way of our efforts to preserve the world’s cleanliness for the next generations.