The water bottle will celebrate its 60th birthday next year. But do we really know what is hidden in the already disputed PVC containers? The alert was given to us this week by Sofiane, one of our readers, via our WhatsApp bot. The link goes to the site How to save and the title indicates this: “Cristaline, Evian, Vittel… 78% of bottled water contains microplastics”.
The article is interested in a study published by the association Agir pour l’environnement, on July 21st. Their observation is simple: “We drink plastic”. In all, 7 out of 9 bottles would be contaminated by the presence of microplastics. But the very day of the publication of this investigation, the Syndicate of spring waters and natural mineral waters responded in a press release, denouncing an investigation “for anxiety and stigmatizing purposes”. He also regrets the lack of seriousness of the investigation. If the association Agir pour l’environnement admits some limits to its research, the results are nevertheless present and validated by an independent laboratory: plastic microparticles are found in our water bottles.
At the house of 20 minutesso we wanted to meet the association Acting for the environment and understand the limits pointed out by the Syndicate of spring water and natural mineral water.
To carry out this survey, the Agir pour l’environnement association selected 9 different types of bottle, after a market study: Badoit, Carrefour (Montclar), Cristaline, Evian [bouteille recyclée en 0,50 et 1 litre]Perrier, Vittel [1 litre et Vittel Kids] and Volvic. The goal ? Show that plastic contamination does not only come from large waste in the ocean, but also from microplastics. Invisible to the naked eye, these particles can harm the environment because they are not biodegradable and can potentially represent a health hazard.
The study was entrusted to the Labocea laboratory, which had to analyze the bottles under laboratory conditions, but we will come back to this detail later. The results of the survey are as follows: between 1 and 121 microparticles per liter were found among the water bottles analyzed. Most of these microplastics come from the bottle, cap or bottling process.
Among the 9 products analysed, the Vittel kids bottle was awarded the prize for the highest presence of microparticles. “In the study, we do not venture on the dangerousness of the observation, we only take a photograph. But what is worrying, in our opinion, is that the plastic microparticles found in the Vittel kids come from the cap… whereas the bottle is sold as a baby bottle that we chew on”, worries Stephen Kerckhove, the Managing Director. from the Association.
Underestimated results, according to the association
Very quickly, Stephen Kerckhove underlines one of the first limits of his investigation: the results are, according to him, understated compared to reality because they were studied in a sanitized laboratory. “During the analysis, the bottle is cleaned, not exposed to light and UV”. In short, it does not find in real conditions of use. So, if the water bottle already reveals the presence of microplastics in the laboratory, when will it be for the one left on the back seat of your car?
A single analysis
In its press release, published in response to the investigation, the Syndicate of spring waters and natural mineral waters points to a second limit to research on microparticles. “The study draws generalizations from unique samplings on only 9 products since the analyzes were not replicated several times, preventing the non-variability of the results from being ensured”. Further on, the Syndicate adds: “The authors themselves recognize that it has no “scientific aims” and yet extrapolate from it recommendations resulting from their free interpretation”.
Stephen Kerchkove admits it “humbly”: he knows that the analysis should have been replicated and the laboratory had recommended it to them beforehand. “To check for contamination, it is better to provide three samples for one and the same bottle. This is used to see if there are elements that can vary by looking at the sensitivity of the analyses”, concedes the president of the association. Only here, lack of means obliges, the study had to stick to a single sample.
However, a few days later, on Twitter, it was the turn of scientist Kako Naït Ali to question the seriousness of the investigation. According to the engineer, the methodology raises questions: why compare 33 cl and 1 liter bottles, when microplastics are mainly found in the caps. It would have been necessary, she says, to compare bottles of the same volume and to remember that the quantities absorbed remain minimal. However, Kako Naït Ali ensures that he does not question the importance of the fight against plastic pollution, but regrets the insufficiently scientific nature of the study.
For his part, Stephen Kerchkove claims to have done the best. “If, for example, we had taken a bottle by exposing it to maximum light and heat, then the criteria would not have been objective. We have taken all possible precautions.”
A standard to be defined
In its press release, the Syndicate also calls for a consensus on the assessment and impact of microplastics on health. The National Food Safety Agency (Anses), for example, ensures that it carries out several types of work to assess the quantity and nature of microplastics in food, as well as the risks involved. However, the question of the presence of microplastics in the environment remains very recent and few results have yet been demonstrated in scientific research.