>Mason's team was able to identify specific plastics over 100 microns (0.10 mm) in size but not smaller particles. According to experts contacted by CBC News, there is a chance the Nile Red dye is adhering to another unknown substance other than plastic.
>Mason leaves open that possibility but leans strongly to the smaller particles being plastic.
>The developer of the Nile Red method agrees.
>Fluorescing particles that were too small to be analyzed should be called "probable microplastic," said Andrew Mayes, senior lecturer in chemistry at the University of East Anglia in the U.K.
The plant that purifies the water and puts it into the glass and aluminum containers almost certainly uses plastic or rubber tubing in its machinery. So you'd likely get some plastic particles transferred there as well. In the end, I'd be willing to bet that tap water has fewer micro plastics than water bottled in glass or aluminum.
Problem, of course, is that your municipality likely uses some form of metal piping to get water to your tap. Which, depending on what all that is, could mean elevated lead levels etc.
It's a tough problem.
Not a metallurgist, but I am pretty sure there are metal alloys that do not contain lead.
Oh and if somebody asks about "but what about chlorinated tap water" - that is less common in Germany. I cannot detect anything but "water" in the places I visit in various German states. Anyone concerned about such things can get a water filter, they are plentiful in supermarkets, mostly these types: https://i.pinimg.com/736x/31/ed/ff/31edff1af777601ac16d33292...
The website of my own municipal water company (of a large Bavarian city) says water is chlorinated only when it is absolutely necessary, and that if they do it they will also stop as soon as possible. So that is a temporary measure when something happened but not usually done.
We (in Germany) do have a nitrate problem in a lot of places. We even got reprimanded by the EU about that only recently. The reason is agriculture, of course. (https://www.euractiv.com/section/agriculture-food/news/eu-cl...)
When I was a kid, my parents would only buy carbonated water. Still water was available from the tap. Today, I stopped buying even that, I can carbonate my water myself.
As to why we buy so much bottled water: Marketing. Some waters have a distinct taste, but at least for me, it’s just a matter of getting used to a different tap water taste when moving.
Might that be surprisingly effective as way to reduce bottled water use?
As a drop-in replacement for the phrase "bottled water", it meme-ishly supports interpersonal and self discouragement of use: "Here's your plastic water dear."; "Don't forget to buy my plastic water.".
The "plasticness" of bottles is highly salient when opening, handling, and trashing them, and is associated with the pollution. Imagine an ad with someone opening a bottle, with putting-down-the-cap noise, making that "crunching" bottle noise, drinking from and looking at a bottle, and recycling it, all while describing plastic "dust" and its health and ecosystem issues. So that bottle handling becomes a memory trigger for the issues and an associate visceral "yuck".
My wife only drinks carbonated bottled water as she's a
germaphobe and dislikes home-carbonators (I've tried everything...), but once she became pregnant I had to start dragging her bottles up to our apartment. I became very resentful of the fact that I had to either buy and drag glass or plastic bottles up to our flat only to bring them back to the store empty.
So I started calling it plastic water as a minor display of rebellion. She doesn't care though. :(
I don't have any evidence that  contains less microplastics than  unfortunately, but I think it could be the case.
(I have lived in Indonesia for about one year and part of my family is from Thailand).
It's an interesting question if they'd be at risk for microplastics as well.
Or SODIS sunlight disinfection.
Filtration systems are available but cost several thousand dollars and require core replacements every two years for around $300-400.
On the other hand, a gallon of potable water from one of the few springs in Bali costs around $3.
- They tested awful. Iodine tablets have an awful taste after. We often use orange flavored powder to hide it.
- They are expensive in third world countries. You have to use one tablet per liter, and it costs about 10 cents USD per tablet. In comparison, you can buy a 1L plastic bottle of water for 30 cents.
- it takes about half an hour to work, so you can't use them immediately.
- Even if you buy those straws, they have a maximum lifetime before you have to replace the filter (about 1000l). You will need to replace about twice a year if you were to use as the daily drive.
Iodine is old tech, and has other issues.
10cents < 30cents. And don’t underestimate the logistics of transporting bottled water.
They claim it's for the taste and purity.
The tap was in Athens was, for us, extremely good tasting. We found ourselves constantly drinking the water, it was actually a treat to drink. We found it far better than either our own tap water, or the bottled water (Ein Gedi) that we bring with us when camping.
That Penn & Teller YouTube link even has a section showing this, though you only need to go to the supermarket and look closely at the fine print of all the different brands of bottle water. You'll quickly find a lot are tap water.
I’ve lived in places with tap water that is definitely noticeable vs filtered/treated water. San Jose water for example is extremely hard and I suspect few people would mistake it for bottled.
Many people have become familiar with the flavor of plastic, and learned to associate it with “purity” or “freshness” or “quality” or whatever.
In NYC I always drink bottled water, where I’ll happily drink potable tap water in most places.
Then they aren't very bright.
We buy bottled water hoping it would benefit our health over tap water.
There are exceptions, though, so if health is your concern, you might want to test both your tap and bottled water.
I'm surprised this myth gets repeated so often on HN. It's not true- the standards for purified bottled water are quite high.
2. The original article you are commenting on suggests that bottled water contains more microplastics than tap water.
That’s not how logic works. That there are instances of municipal water supplies whose quality is sufficient to meet bottled water standards doesn’t tell you anything about minimum standards for either municipal supplies or bottled water.
Further: I would expect quality of municipal supplies to vary widely. A city built on the side of a mountain with access to springs can just provide that water, and it’s still from “municipal” supply.
Hell, in my county this information is easily available online and in libraries and is broken down by measurements in the processing plant vs measurements in the distribution network.
This won't directly tell you if your pipes are bad (and Atlanta does have some areas that used lead pipes from the county supply to the home) but it's a pretty good indicator of the water quality in my area.
If you're really concerned, it's almost always a better investment to get your tap water tested and fix the pipes than it is to buy bottled.
I very much doubt that's the case, I'm just saying we can't make such direct assumptions when analyzing scientific research.
Do you have a source for that? Is it not just the prevalent belief among consumers?
> In total nearly 2000 microplastic particles > 100 um were extracted from all of the filters, with nearly 1000 (~50%) being further analyzed by FTIR. Obtained FTIR spectra were compared to libraries of known spectra in order to confirm and identify the polymeric content of the particles. All particles analyzed were either best matched to a polymer, plastic additive or known plastic binder providing additional supporting evidence that Nile Red selectively adsorbed to microplastic particles within the bottled water. With this spectroscopic confirmation, it can be concluded that on average each bottle of water contains at least 10.4 MPP/L (Table 2).
> Given the limitations of the lab, particles < 100 um (the so-called ‘NR tagged particles’) were not able to be confirmed as polymeric through spectroscopic analyses (FTIR &/or Raman spectroscopy). However, in testing of various stains and dyes that could be employed for microplastic detection and analysis within environmental samples with a greater potential for misidentification and false positives (i.e., sediments and open-water environmental samples) both Maes et al. (2107) and Erni-Cassola et al. (2017) concluded that Nile Red (NR) was very selective, especially within the time scales of incubation employed, and could be used for the rapid detection of microplastics without the need for additional spectroscopic analysis. To be sure that is why this stain was employed for this study. Additionally FTIR analysis was done on fluorescing particles >100 um and every particle analyzed was confirmed to be polymeric. Even further, NR is well-established to selectively adsorb to hydrophobic (‘water-fearing’) materials and, as such, will not adsorb to the only contents reasonably expected to be within bottled water, water &/or its mineral components.
A friend bought a water destiller because of some health-theories. You are supposed to drink distilled water in the morning and so on... He is usually using it on tap water because he believes the water isn't pure enough (Germany, should be pure enough). One day he figured he could try the bottled water, maybe less build up of chalk in the sistern. This area has a lot of chalk in the ground so everything gets white very fast. He was not totally surpriced with having a black burned, smelly gunk in the bottom the next day. He does not buy bottled water any more :-)
The concept is that the ultra-pure water leaches potentially harmful ions from its surroundings, for example chromium from stainless steel fixtures. Better to drink some harmless sodium and chlorine ions.
Distilled water is boiled and recondensed water, which leaves you with pure H2O (no minerals etc). It's safe to drink but pretty bland.
And DI water gets hydronium and hydroxide pretty quickly (if they ever go away.) H2O just breaks down into OH- and H3O+ on its own (as far as I know)
>Deionization is a chemical process that uses specially manufactured ion-exchange resins, which exchange hydrogen and hydroxide ions for dissolved minerals
In other words, if deionized water is unhealthful because of a lack of ions, distilled water is, too, because it doesn't contain any more ions than deionized water does.
> Orb found on average there were 10.4 particles of plastic per litre that were 100 microns (0.10 mm) or bigger. This is double the level of microplastics in the tap water tested from more than a dozen countries across five continents, examined in a 2017 study by Orb that looked at similar-sized plastics.
Worse... it's worse than tap water.
The documentary Tapped and Blue Gold both go into all the screwed up thing the bottle water industry does. For countries without clean water, bottled water is not the solution. Better municipal water, more wells and cheaper, low energy water purification around those wells is a much more sustainable solution.
Are you sure about this? My impression is that the price/weight ratio of bottled water is way to low to make any sense to not bottle them in close proximity, so "extracted from poor countries" doesn't sound plausible.
One of Nestle's recent CEOs actually went on record to say say he didn't believe access to clean water should be a human right.
Well, not always. Premium brands are often shipped long distances. Evian, Fiji water, etc...
It's out of business now.
That sounds more like a problem of the local government than factories of bottled water.
>he didn't believe access to clean water should be a human right
Depends on the definition of "human right". You still pay for even the tap water in your home after all.
This model shows the problem nicely:
Snopes does cover the situation quite well (see link upthread).
This sort of thing: https://www.nationofchange.org/2019/08/30/nestle-waters-prop....
> “Water is, of course, the most important raw material we have today in the world. It’s a question of whether we should privatize the normal water supply for the population. And there are two different opinions on the matter. The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means that as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution. The other view says that water is a foodstuff like any other, and like any other foodstuff it should have a market value. Personally, I believe it’s better to give a foodstuff a value so that we’re all aware it has its price, and then that one should take specific measures for the part of the population that has no access to this water, and there are many different possibilities there.”
The Snopes article only disputes that he didn’t specifically say the words “Water is NOT a human right”, but backs up what the GP said (that he doesn’t believe it should be a human right).
No, he is not saying bottled water. He is saying water plain and simple. Any water.
"That means that as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution."
So, for him, having access to water (any water) is not a human right. If some people can not afford to pay for it, that's their problem, or the government's to find an alternative ("and then that one should take specific measures for the part of the population that has no access to this water").
And to respond to him: Yes, Human Right to water is a thing.
Fully agree with your comment!
I only know about Nestle, there often is the story about them supposedly depleting water in dry regions (I think Afghanistan or Pakistan). But if you look it up, they take the water from a very water rich region in that country.
Next time you read that Nestle story, look it up. I don't have time to Google right now.
You use the most idiotic interpretation you can imagine and then stating it as a fact. I'm sure that you are not doing this in bad faith, but your thinking is missing basic common sense that cripples you ability to understand society. Human right to water and sanitation (HRWS) is very reasonable right. It means that HRWS rules over other concerns in legal disputes and affects policy priorities.
This paper has real world legal cases and interpretations: https://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/pdf/human_right_to_wat...
They should move somewhere where they can get water. UN may pay for it or whatever. But to show people in some rotten place and complain that they don't get their human right to water makes no sense.
Also, the point of finding "most idiotic interpretations" is to make it obvious if something makes no sense. You are just not used to logical thinking (here, finding trivial counter examples).
Most bottled water came out of a local tap.
If you live e.g. in the Bay Area, your tap water instead has a good chance of having a good helping of hexavalent chromium, which... not too healthy. (Neither are arsenic, bromium, etc.)
Pick your poison. Literally.
I drink a lot of tap water, but always put it through a filter of some sort.
I looked for Chromium 6 Water Filter and found plenty of good options. Truly thank you for the recommendation.
https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/ has a pretty decent guide.
If you're worried about chromium 6 (hexavalent chromium) install a reverse osmosis filter.
And tastes like crap across the bay. I don't care, but my wife is pretty picky about it. I've tried multiple filters, to no avail.
Upon searching looks like SJC gets if from aquifers, recharge areas and also a bit from sfpuc (hetchhechy). EB MUD gets it from the Sierra snowmelt.
To the water coming out of your tap?
The reason being that (except some cases of corruption...) legal limit are much stricter for tap water.
Better in impurities at the very least, the taste is usually quite worse.
As an anecdote: you can let your tap water be tested for free if you have a newborn to ensure and confirm that you can use it for baby food without doubt.
That said I’ve never been a fan of bottle water anyway, I’ve always preferred what my Nan used to call ‘council pop’ (tap water).
Without doubt? We just found out that they are microplastics in bottled water, how can you be sure there aren't things in tap water that we haven't discovered yet?
Pure water is tasteless - the one we drink has a bunch of stuff.
I think for some people this might seem to be true. That said, for folks who are able to taste such things, clean water from different sources definitely can have tastes that differ based on the minerality of the water.
I used to think this was BS, but I changed my mind after doing a deep dive into wine, in which flavors like minerality of the soil, local flowers, and the like are definitely represented in finer wines.
For an over-the-top water example, check out this video:
Dasani and Aquafina are both from the tap. Probably lots of others, but we never buy bottled water of any source.
One story that goes around a lot is for example the claim that tap water contains a lot of hormones from all the contraceptive pills women take and then flush out of their body into the water system. That seems to not be controlled for. Not sure how serious the issue really is.
More controls also doesn't change the quality of water. It only detects bad water of some variants. If you had an excellent "mineral water" and an OK tap water, more controls wouldn't make the tap water any better.
Not saying you shouldn't drink the tap water. I drink it most of the time.
Pittsburgh (in 2017) didn't even have enough people to run the necessary water audits.
Milwaukee's city health commissioner resigned in 2018 because they didn't warn about unsafe lead levels in the water.
In 2018, around half of the samples from Newark's water system showed lead levels above the EPA's threshold.
Large parts of Texas' water contain elevated amounts of radium. Brady, TX, has water that's green, brown, orange - it changes - and has 9 times the EPA limit of radium
California has a statewide sanitation problem.
And that's just a starter set.
Making people unreasonably afraid of tap water just seems irresponsible.
The third link from GP has a headline which reads “360,000 Californians have unsafe drinking water. Are you one of them?”
That’s approximately 1% of CA’s population. That’s not even a long tail.
So I believe what’s happening here is that they took the total population coverage of any water district that ever had at least two reports of a water quality or monitoring violation in the last decade.
I think ”potentially” is the key word here which makes this claim particularly washy. Are they looking at violations which actually resulted in measurably unsafe water, which were likely to cause or result in unsafe water, or merely violations which could possibly resulted in unsafe water, or perhaps monitoring lapses which would have failed to detect potentially unsafe water, but without any evidence that water was actually ever unsafe?
It’s a newsroom investigative report, not a scientific study. Take this with a huge grain of salt.
Considering the bottles are made of plastic, it would be surprising if they contained less plastic particles than tap water.
What would be interesting is if glass bottled water contained a similar number of plastic particles, because that would suggest a different source of contamination.
Many water pipes in houses are plastic. Would be interesting to see studies on tap water.
Not all bottled waters are RO filtered, either. Many are sourced from natural springs and retain various minerals.
If it is in 93% of bottled water, and bottled water is used by millions of people (according to https://www.consumerreports.org/bottled-water/should-we-brea... around 110 Million people in the US avoid drinking tap water), then there has been widespread exposure to microplastics.
It does not seem like there has been huge health consequences due to microplastics, so microplastics are probably pretty safe for humans.
"Although it is not possible to draw any firm conclusion on toxicity related to the physical hazard of plastic particles, particularly the nano size particles through drinking-water exposure, no reliable information suggests it is a concern. Humans have ingested microplastics and other particles in the environment for decades with no related indication of adverse health effects."
Fun Fact: the "compostable" paper bowls offered by many fast casual restaurants like Chipotle contain this chemical, and will leech into the soil if you try to compost them.
"The Devil We Know" is a pretty unnerving documentary on this subject.
"The researchers said that they cannot determine from their data what might have caused the decline, but it could be related to environmental or lifestyle factors."
Despite all those chemicals, we have had longer life expectancies, better quality of life, and less suffering.
The longer term, and subtler the effect is, the safer a substance is. My educated guess is that microplastics are going to cause a lot fewer human deaths and ingury than any of the following natural stuff:
Bees, coffee (see acrylamide), peanuts, mosquitoes, arsenic, mushrooms, and bodies of water.
That means all life is going to become more and more exposed to microplastics as more and more breaks down. Sure, maybe it'll be not be so bad for a random human but what happens when this stuff starts getting into single cell and small organisms where it is in far greater concentrations?
What happens when phytoplankton, or zooplankton start getting a lot in them and it negatively impacts them? Do you get a collapse of an ecosystem?
What happens when pollinators like bees start getting large concentrations in them?
What happens as it accumulates in soil to the hundreds-to-thousands of species that are found in the first couple of inches of an average square meter of soil?
And here's the real problem... the plastic is already out there, it will break down into smaller and smaller pieces and if we entirely outlawed plastic today and no more was ever made in human history, the number of microplastic pieces would continue to grow for quite a long time before leveling off and then would appear to start vanishing as the pieces just got small enough to avoid detection via affordable methods.
If you worry too much about what MAY be dangerous, you couldn't leave the bed anymore. Remaining in bed is definitely dangerous. Not drinking water is also definitely dangerous.
Not like similar debacles haven't happened in the past: Tobacco, asbestos, lead, VOCs, the list goes on and on.
We're all a part of gigantic experiment the consequences of which we won't find out for some time.
Unfortunately, there is no good research yet . As you say, it is quite possible that there is essential zero effect.
There are some indicators that concentrated nanoplastics (smaller particles) are harmful. 
How are you deciding that there hasn't been huge health consequences?
These articles are providing easily-digestible imagery for how wide-spread microplastics are on the planet.
From the BBC
>This is usually so that the tea bag is held in a pyramid shape, which producers claim helps the tea leaves infuse better.
It's one of those things that having found surprising amounts somewhere, we're going to spend the coming years finding surprising amounts everywhere.
Bit like the chap who ended up finding lead from petrol everywhere on every researcher and clean surface in his lab, invented the clean room, and started finding it up mountains etc.
I wonder how much people are drinking those teas.
know I have
* Microplastics found in 93% of bottled water tested in global study
* Microplastics found in 90 percent of table salt
* Microplastics Are Blowing in the Wind
* Microplastics found in supermarket fish, shellfish
I think people around the world have been ingesting microplastic for 30 years or longer, yet there's no reported case of any direct toxic effects. So I guess microplastic doesn't have immediately effects on health, but I won't be surprised if future studies find longterm effects, such as increasing the risk of cancer, damage to the circulatory system or the brain.
Overall, I think we must take actions immediately for solutions, but I won't particularly worry about this problem and I'll continue buying bottled water. It's not unlike the air pollution in the 20th century, one has to live with it.
Nevertheless, "microplastic is going to kill all of us" surely is going to be the trope of the next decade.
The author's name is a spoiler? Are you talking about P. D. James' The Children of Men?
Yeah because it would spoil the book. By mentioning the book nor the author, you don't realize that you know the spoiler until you've already read 90% of the book.
In case someone does want to know, in rot13: vasreab ol qna oebja
Ed: having rot13 that, I still don't see how it's a spoiler...
I don't understand what's unclear about spoilers: what I described (a part of the world population infertile) is only revealed in the final like 10 pages of the book.
Perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned that there is a book at all, since it isn't super in depth anyway. But I also don't want to pass it off as an idea of my own.
In this case, 30 years? Or, taken in another light, it doesn't have effects that are visible on the time-scale of known substances such as lead, arsenic, mercury, etc.
In addition, the parent also stated this:
> I won't be surprised if future studies find longterm effects, such as increasing the risk of cancer, damage to the circulatory system or the brain.