Lawsuits Aimed at Microplastics in Bottled Water

Home » Lawsuits Aimed at Microplastics in Bottled Water
April 02, 2024
Edward Smith

Drinking Bottled Water to Stay Safe? Think Again.

In an era when environmental concerns have reached critical levels, microplastics have become a silent yet potent threat to humans and the broader ecosystem. Microplastics, defined as plastic particles smaller than 5 millimeters in size, have infiltrated the environment, including drinking water. Many people drink bottled water to stay safe, based on its manufacturers’ claims that it is safe, pure, and healthy. Recent studies show they might be spending money on false promises. 

Is Bottled Water Safe?

The reliance on water in bottles as a perceived safer alternative to tap water has long been ingrained in modern society, fueled by marketing campaigns promoting purity and freshness. Yet, as our understanding of microplastic pollution deepens, it becomes clear that the bottles we turn to for hydration may harbor hidden dangers. Contrary to popular belief, packaged water does not offer an escape from contamination; it may exacerbate the problem, potentially posing health risks we cannot ignore.

Lawsuits Against Bottled Water Manufacturers

The truth about microplastics in bottled water has led to an increasing number of lawsuits against manufacturers. Some putative claims are:

  • Fiji: The Wonderful Company owns the bottled water and has been sued over its quality assertions. While advertised as pure artesian water, the lawsuit claims it is contaminated by microplastics, leading to health risks such as heart problems, endocrine disruption, and chronic inflammation.
  • Poland Springs: This lawsuit, filed in New York against BlueTriton Brands, claims the company insisted its water was pure when microplastics and a chemical used to manufacture plastics were present. 
  • Arrowhead: A lawsuit filed against the manufacturer of Arrowhead Water says that despite the claim that the water is 100 percent pure, it contains microplastics. 
  • Evian water: The claim in this case cited the company for advertising the water was pure. Instead, it contained microplastics. 

How Much Microplastics Are We Talking About?

Bottled water can contain a staggering volume of microplastic fragments. Recent studies suggest that a single liter of bottled water could include as many as 240,000 tiny plastic pieces. In addition, when heated, containers release over 10 million microplastics per milliliter into water. 

How Does Microplastics Get in Bottles of Water?

Microplastics entering bottled water is a complex phenomenon with several pathways contributing to contamination. One significant route is through the water’s production and packaging processes. During bottling, various stages involve using plastic materials and machinery, which can shed tiny particles into the water. These particles can come from the bottles, caps, seals, or even the machinery used for filling and sealing the bottles.

Additionally, the manufacturing, bottling, or storage environment can be a source of microplastic contamination. Dust and airborne plastic particles may settle on surfaces in the water during these phases. 

Furthermore, microplastics can infiltrate bottles through the water source itself. Many water brands source their water from natural springs, groundwater, or municipal supplies. Despite this, microplastic pollution can contaminate even seemingly pristine water sources. 

Packaging Materials May Increase Risk

Moreover, studies have suggested that the packaging materials used for bottled water heighten microplastic contamination. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, commonly used for water bottles, has been shown to release microplastics into the water over time, especially under certain conditions such as exposure to heat or prolonged storage. This means that even if the water is initially free from microplastics, the packaging materials can introduce them into the water over time, particularly during storage or when subjected to environmental stressors.

Harm Caused by Microplastics

The potential health risk due to microplastic contamination is an ongoing area of research and concern. Several potential risks have been identified:

  • Ingestion of microplastics: When humans consume bottled water contaminated with microplastics, there is a risk of ingesting these tiny plastic particles. Once ingested, microplastics can accumulate in the gastrointestinal tract and be absorbed into the body. 
  • Transfer of chemicals: Microplastics can act as carriers for other harmful substances, such as pollutants and additives, that may be present in the environment or used in the production of plastics. These chemicals can adsorb onto the surface of microplastics and may be released into the body upon ingestion, potentially causing toxicity or disrupting physiological processes.
  • Inflammation and tissue damage: Studies have suggested that microplastics may induce inflammatory responses and tissue damage in the gastrointestinal tract upon ingestion. This could lead to gastrointestinal disorders or exacerbate existing conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Disruption of gut microbiota: Microplastics in the gastrointestinal tract may also disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, which is crucial in maintaining digestive health and immune function. Changes to the gut microbiome could affect overall health and increase susceptibility to various diseases.
  • Potential for bioaccumulation: There is concern that microplastics consumed through water in plastic bottles may accumulate in tissues and organs over time, a process known as bioaccumulation. This could lead to higher concentrations of microplastics in the body and increase the risk of adverse health effects. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that patients with nanoplastics and microplastic accumulation in their plaque have a greater chance of heart-related incidents. Specifically, these patients had a four-fold increase in strokes, heart attacks or death.

How to Reduce Microplastic Ingestion From Water

Use a water filter for tap and bottled water to reduce the amount of microplastics and nanoplastic particles. Depending on their size, running the water through filters will remove microplastics. Reverse osmosis, a costlier method of filtration, is one way to remove most contaminants of this type. 

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Photo attribution: Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

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