The world's leading brands of bottled water are contaminated with tiny plastic particles that are likely seeping in during the packaging process, according to a major study across nine countries published 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 (PET), which is used to make bottle caps.
"In this study, 65 percent of the particles we found were actually fragments and not fibers," Mason told AFP.
"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.
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On average, plastic particles in the 100 micron (0.10 millimeter) size range - considered "microplastics," - were found at an average rate of 10.4 plastic particles per liter.
Even smaller particles were more common - averaging about 325 per liter.
Other brands that were found to contain plastic contaminated included Bisleri, Epura, Gerolsteiner, Minalba and Wahaha.
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 ADHD and autism," said Mason.