Answer:

Due to manufacturing processes, pollution and even just how products are used, tiny fragments and fibers of plastic, known as microplastics, are being found in foods (such as Himalayan and other salts) and beverages (tap and bottled waters, beers, and even infant formula). Although it's not yet clear what effects they have on human health, it may be best to try to avoid exposure where possible. Below is information regarding the concentrations of microplastic fragments in different salts, waters, beers, and infant formula.

See ConsumerLab's tests of popular countertop water filter pitchers to find out how well they filtered microplastics and other contaminants from tap water, and our Top Pick among products.

Plastic in salt, water, beers
A study published in 2018 found that 36 of 39 brands of salt from around the world contained microplastics. Salt produced in Asia tended to contain the highest amounts; the researchers noted that this region of the world accounts for approximately 70% of global plastic emissions. They also found that, in general, sea salt tended to contain the highest amounts of microplastics, followed by rock salt (mined), and salt from lakes (Kim, Environ Sci Technol Lett 2018).

A study of sea salts and Himalayan salt purchased in the U.S. found that all twelve brands of salt contained particles that were synthetic (most likely plastic), in amounts ranging from 46.7 to 806 particles per kilogram. Interestingly, however, this study found that the Himalayan salt (a rock salt rather than a sea salt) contained the second-highest number of particles (an average of 367 per kilogram) after a Pacific sea salt (which contained an average of 806 particles per kilogram), while a Hawaiian sea salt contained the least (46.7 per kilogram). The same study tested samples of drinking water from around the world, including tap water from 33 locations in the U.S. and three bottled waters sold in the U.S., and found that 81% of the water samples contained synthetic particles. Tap water from the U.S. contained the highest average density of particles (9.24 per liter) compared to tap water from any other country or region. The three bottled waters purchased in the U.S. contained fewer particles -- an average of 3.57 per liter. Tests by the same researchers of 12 brands of beer purchased in the U.S. found that all contained synthetic particles, averaging 4.05 particles per liter — about the same as bottled water. The researchers estimated that the average person ingests over 5,800 particles of synthetic debris from water, salt and/or beer each year, and, based on consumer guidelines for water and salt intake, the largest contribution (88%), would be from drinking water due to the large volume consumed (Kosuth, PLoS One 2018).

Be aware that amounts of microplastics will vary widely in tap and bottled water depending on the source of the water, differences in processing, and, for bottled waters, packaging and storage conditions (Cox, Environ Sci Technol 2019).

Plastic in bottled water and infant formula
A study of 259 bottles of water from nine different countries showed that, even within a brand, amounts varied by location, but waters bottled in glass tend to have significantly less contamination than those packaged in plastic. This suggests, according to the researchers, that "some of the microplastic contamination is likely coming from the water source, but a larger contribution might be originating from the packaging itself." In this study, Nestle Pure Life and Gerolsteiner showed the highest average microplastic contamination across lot samples, while San Pellegrino and Minalba had the lowest (Mason, Front Chem 2018).


Even repeated opening/closing of caps on plastic water bottles can cause high accumulations of microplastic particles around the bottle neck, suggesting that one should not re-use a plastic water bottle and, if reused, one should not drink straight from the bottle (Winkler, Water Res 2019).

Polypropylene (plastic) infant feeding bottles were found to release very large amounts of microplastic particles when used to prepare infant formula. Bottles that were not polypropylene bottles (such as glass bottles) but that had polypropylene accessories (such as a gravity ball for mixing or a straw) released smaller amounts of particles. Formula preparation was simulated by cleaning and sterilizing the bottles at 95 ? (203 ?) for 5 minutes, then shaking the bottle with 70 ? (158 ?) water for 60 seconds. Sterilized bottles released 35% to 84% more particles than bottles that were not sterilized, and more vigorous shaking also increased particles. [Note: the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend sterilizing infant feeding bottles to prevent bacteria from contaminating the milk.] The researchers suggested that the amount of microparticles in infant formula prepared in polypropylene bottles may be reduced by rinsing sterilized bottles (preferably with previously sterilized water), not heating formula in bottles in microwave ovens, and minimizing vigorous shaking (Li, Nature Food 2020).

Filtering Microplastics Out of Drinking Water
Few water filter pitchers on the market make claims about filtering microplastics from water. ConsumerLab tests have shown that their effectiveness varies widely, with some products removing the majority of microplastics, and others, only some. We also found that one product added plastic to the filtered water! See ConsumerLab's Water Filter Pitchers Review for details and our Top Pick among products.

Health impact
Studies in mice that ingested large amounts of microplastics found them to accumulate in the liver, kidney and gut, and affect blood markers of energy and fat metabolism, oxidative stress, and neurotoxicity, as well as brain development in offspring (Deng, Sci Rep 2017; Kougias, J Neurosci 2018). However, to-date, there do not appear to be studies in people on the effects of consuming microplastics.

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51 Comments

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Charles21291
November 6, 2020

The Brita SOHO is only a 5-cup capacity but Brita has other models of pitchers that hold 10 cups. Were any of the other models tested? If the pitcher is made of the same kind of plastic probably it is fine but what if it is different and adds microplastics?

ConsumerLab.com
November 6, 2020

What is most important is the filter rather than the pitcher or its size. Our testing focused on the Brita Longlast filter.

Diane21103
October 7, 2020

What about reusable water bottles with plastic drinking tops that you pop open to drink and then close? I have a glass water bottle with a plastic drinking top, HDPE Recycle code 2 and am wondering if it's safe to use.

ConsumerLab.com
October 7, 2020

We don't know, but the microplastic issue may less of a concern with a pop-off top than with a twist-top due to the shearing force of twisting.

George18557
October 24, 2019

What about plastic storage containers that we buy specifically for food storage? I'm thinking in particular about my round Glad® and Ziplock® containers--containers that I've used for years to store and re-heat casseroles and other food items. I would prefer glass, but it's too heavy, not to mention the problem of having to worry about breakage, either from mishandling, or from overfilling due to freezing.
I'm wondering if the repeated--dozens and dozens--of freezing/reheating cycles would not necessarily degrade the plastic surface to where it is releasing large amounts of microparticles. These are all polypropylene (recycle code 5.)
I notice a "short communication" just last month in the journal Science of The Total Environment, by Hwang, et al,, regarding polypropylene: "The accumulation of microplastic particles in humans has potential health risks such as cytotoxicity, hypersensitivity, unwanted immune response, and acute response like hemolysis. We investigated the cellular responses of secondary polypropylene microplastics (PP particles) of approximately ~20?µm and 25–200?µm in different condition and size to normal cells, immune cells, blood cells, and murine immune cells by cytokine analysis, ROS assay, polarization assay and proliferation assay. We found that PP particles showed low cytotoxicity effect in size and concentration manner, however, a high concentration, small sized, DMSO method of PP particles stimulated the immune system and enhanced potential hypersensitivity to PP particles."
Should I trash all of those things (saving a few, though, for storage of solids)?

ConsumerLab.com
October 24, 2019

We are not aware of research on this, but the issue with water bottle caps, which get repeatedly screwed on and off and cause the shearing of plastic, is probably different (and likely more problematic) than the effect of snapping a plastic top on and off.

B19038
January 24, 2020

To add to my comments--- This is why we consumers especially need places like Consumer Lab and a few others who are knowledgeable and test what we use and eat. Thank you Consumer Lab !

Deborah18546
October 17, 2019

Does this micro-plastics problem of re-use apply to hard plastic bottles, like Nalgene?

ConsumerLab.com
October 21, 2019

Hi Deborah - We are not aware of any studies investigating microplastic contamination from Nalgene.

David18544
October 16, 2019

I'm concerned about the reusable plastic containers in Soda Stream and NutriBullet type products. They are intended to be used multiple times which I've always considered to be more environmentally friendly than single use plastic but is there a difference in the amount of particles??

John18511
October 13, 2019

This is unfortunate, but I'm glad that I am now aware of micro-plastics in drinking water.
I filter my own water at home and bring it to the gym, and hiking. I have been re-using plastic bottles, but it appears that is no longer safe. Stainless steel seems a bit heavy especially since I typically drink 1/2 gallon at the gym. How are other people transporting water on hikes and other physical activities?

Richard18528
October 15, 2019

The Steel and aluminum water bottles I've seen are lined with a plastic coating. The best water bottle I've found are plastic with a glass like lining; a thin, flexible coating of silicon dioxide is electrostaticly deposited on the inside of the plastic bottle. The only brand I know is the Specialized Purist line of water bottle. And even then the lids and mouthpiece are ordinary plastic.

Eric18474
October 2, 2019

As far as microplastics in beer, I think more people should be aware that when you buy beer in an aluminum can, you are buying beer in plastic. Aluminum cans have a plastic coating inside to protect the contents from reacting with the metal. That's not the only way for microplastics to get into your beer, but buying in glass vs a plastic-lined can is the one source of contamination you have any control over

Don18502
October 13, 2019

The CL article doesn't mention the other payload you get from having ingestible in plastic. In response to the BPA controversy a lot of products and container liners were changed to a "BPA-Free" plastic. CertiChem Labs tested these new plastic formulations and found them to also contain chemicals which caused the same issues behind the BPA controversy - some were even worse than BPA. A plastics company sued and silenced CertiChem, but their work is available. Bottom line: not only do you get micro plastics but also hormone disruption.....

Gloria18516
October 14, 2019

What about Coca-Cola in cans?

ConsumerLab.com
October 14, 2019

Hi Gloria - We aren't aware of any studies measuring microplastics in soda or soda cans/bottles.

Richard18529
October 15, 2019

The aluminum bottles are plastic lined. May produce micro-plastics. Await studies.

ConsumerLab.com
October 15, 2019

Hi Don - Thanks for writing about this. We checked out the related article (https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/ehp.1003220), which, as you note, indicates the presence of hormone disruptors in samples of various plastic containers (after bits of the plastic were cut off and treated with alcohol or salt water to help extract the compounds), although the study does not evaluate the impact on people. Nevertheless, it does make the point that a variety of compounds in plastics should be considered by consumers using plastic containers.

Joann18018
June 11, 2019

How do we get clean, good for you, water? Is there an in home system?

Gregory18015
June 10, 2019

Do water filters like Brita, Pur or the more expensive in-line ones do a good job of filtering out microplastics? I know the pitcher variety don't do much because there's not enough force being provided by gravity to get through a good filter, but the on-tap and in-line filters are much better if you have reasonable water pressure.

ConsumerLab.com
June 12, 2019

Hi Joann and Gregory -- We've now answered your questions here https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/water-filters-for-microplastics/water-filters/.

Joann18029
June 12, 2019

Thank you for your answer. Keep us apprised on how to get clean water.

ConsumerLab.com
June 12, 2019

You're welcome Joann!

Raymond 18012
June 10, 2019

I drink distilled water. If one's reaction is: "No, you're not getting minerals" then you are repeating an old wive’s tale, as 1. In order to get sufficient minerals from water, you’d have to drink some 100 gallons/day, and 2. The 'minerals' you’re getting in water is dirt/impurities and of no positive health benefit.
The problem is that my distilled water is in plastic bottles. I would be best served by distilling my own.
It makes sense for CL to test distilled water as plastic/synthetics from the underlying water source would be eliminated and the transfer of particles from the plastic bottle itself could be analyzed.

Joseph18499
October 13, 2019

I have been drinking distilled water for more than 20 years. I started with a couple of home distillers, and now I use an Ellis water machine which super distills the water to as pure as it can be purified and makes a gallon per hour, pouring the water into a gallon glass jug. Well worth the money for the machine.

Clinton18524
October 15, 2019

II use to drink distilled water until read a scientific article, a number of years ago, that related to an investigation by a Japanese Scientist, that drinking distilled water ruptured red blood cells. I read this article so many years ago, that unfortunately, I am unable to site the source.

C. Blumer, APRN, CRNA (retired).

ConsumerLab.com
October 15, 2019

Hi Clinton - You may be confusing this with the fact that, in a test tube, red blood cells will swell and rupture in distilled water. But this does not happen when people drink normal amounts of distilled water.

Clinton18549
October 19, 2019

I have not been pleased with either the PUR or the Brita water filters that can be connected to the faucet. I am currently using the large counter top water dispenser with a water dispensing spigot that comes with water testing gauges that i have been very satisfied with.

Joann18011
June 10, 2019

What is the best way to get drinking water? There is arsenic in well water, micro plastics in bottled water, and you certainly would not want to drink the water in So. Cal from the tap. I wonder about the filters in our Reverse Osmosis.. Recommend any filtration systems?

MARY JO18276
September 1, 2019

I have a reverse osmosis system. i have it maintained every year. have had it for over 20 years. This confirms what I have always known. i even used the meter on this water that comes out of this thing in my sink. when its time for maintenance i will get "particles of 1 to 6" readout. Get a system, it will cost you about 6000 for a whole house water conditioner and a reverse osmosis system that is put under your kitchen sink, but it is worth it. For what price is your health worth?

Carol18504
October 13, 2019

I have a reverse osmosis under sink filter and maintain it every year. Water tastes as good as bottled water. Have had it for years. Love it.

JN18514
October 13, 2019

Yes, an RO system beats city water but there are some downsides.
Depending on the quality of incoming water, the amount of reject, that is, the portion of water that contains constituents andt does not pass through the membrane, can easily be above 30%. If you live in TX like me, water is very expensive.
The quality of incoming water also will determine how quickly the membrane becomes fouled and will require a chemical cleaning.
Just my two cents.

Janet18523
October 14, 2019

I have been using a reverse osmosis system since the early 1980s. I get one every time we move. May not be perfect but the water tastes sweet (unlike the strong taste of chlorine where we currently live). I think it’s better than plastic bottles.

Jeffrey18009
June 10, 2019

Does using a Pur filter help get rid of these plastics? Thank you

Helen18008
June 10, 2019

It would be useful to know if these microplastics can be filtered out using regular water filers like Brita

ConsumerLab.com
June 12, 2019

Hi Jeffrey and Helen - Please see our CL Answer about water filters and microplastics here: https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/water-filters-for-microplastics/water-filters/.

Ann18006
June 9, 2019

Is there less plastic in imported beers , generally? Disappointing that Gerolsteiner carbonated water from Germany was found to have a lot; the purity law invoked by German brewers to reassure consumers, is often found on the label of bottled beer.

Stephen18005
June 9, 2019

are you guys going to do a full analysis of some of the popular bottled waters out there or does it vary too much?

ConsumerLab.com
June 12, 2019

Hi Stephen - We are considering testing and evaluating testing methodologies.

esther18085
June 27, 2019

Looking forward to reading the results!

Dawn18004
June 9, 2019

Maldonado Sea Salt?

ConsumerLab.com
June 10, 2019

Hi Dawn - We are not aware of any studies that have analyzed this particular brand of salt for contamination with microplastics.

John18003
June 9, 2019

I wonder whether any of the consumer water filter pitchers -- like Pur or Britta -- remove any or even some of these microplastics.

Blane18002
June 9, 2019

Will filtering bottle water using something like a charcoal PUR filter remove the microplastics ?

Barbara18001
June 9, 2019

I use Redmond salt. Any comments about this

ConsumerLab.com
June 10, 2019

Hi Barbara - Redmond sea salt is mined in Utah, from an ancient sea bed. The study noted above tested salt from Utah and found it to contain somewhat fewer particles than salts from active seas, although more than found in Hawaiian sea salt and North Sea salt.

Megan17999
June 9, 2019

Does anyone know if water filters help much or at all with microplastics in tap water?

Steven17288
November 5, 2018

I wonder about Celtic Salt, my favorite

Robert17281
November 5, 2018

Just last week I speculated that Himalayan Pink salt would be free from microplastics since it is mined from deposits. The contamination must occur during processing. Perhaps at this point the list of products without plastic is growing very short.

Shawn17282
November 5, 2018

Same here. And equally disappointed.

Jeffrey17292
November 7, 2018

This is all too much bad news. Ought to have a special bad new warning sector on this Great site !
Jeff

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