A study published by Spanish researchers found that sugary drinks contain, on average, 100 times more plasticizers than bottled water.
The study analyzed 75 samples from various beverages for plastic compounds, providing a rare snapshot of plasticizer contamination in European drinks.
Researchers from the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA) of the Spanish National Research Council discovered the packaging type – glass, plastic, or can – was not the main determinant of plasticizer levels in drinks. Instead, added sugar was found to make the most significant difference.
Plasticizers are chemical compounds added to plastics to provide flexibility and durability. However, they are increasingly linked to toxic health effects, including neurological damage, endocrine disruption, cancer, and fertility issues.
The study, published in Environment International, found 95 percent of the analyzed drinks, ranging from tap water to wine, contained at least one of the 19 organophosphate plasticizers tested for.
“This demonstrates the ubiquity of their compounds and our daily exposure to them,” said Julio Fernandez Arribas, a researcher at IDAEA and the study’s lead author, in a press release.
The highest concentrations of these compounds were found in sugary soft drinks and juices with added sugars, with averages of 2,876 and 2,965 nanograms per liter, respectively.
The lowest levels of contamination were detected in bottled water (2.7 nanograms per liter). Meanwhile, Barcelona’s tap water was around 10 times more contaminated by these compounds, likely due to the PVC pipes city water passes through.
After tap water, coffee was the next least contaminated (23.8 nanograms per liter), followed by wine, sugar-free soft drinks, tea, and juices without added sugars.
Given that plasticizers were also found in pure sugar samples, researchers suggest considering the widespread sweetener as a source of contamination.
Researchers examined different packaging types, such as glass, plastic, and cans, and found that the container was not a determining factor.
They discovered the plastic coating on the metal caps of glass bottles releases eight separate compounds into the drinks.
In the case of one brand of juice, the glass bottle contained 10 times higher plasticizer levels than other packages.
Although none of the beverages exceeded the safety threshold, researchers warned that people consume these compounds in other ways as well.
“We must consider that these plasticizers also enter the human body through other routes like food ingestion and inhalation. Therefore, a comprehensive evaluation of the total amount of plasticizers to which we are exposed is necessary,” author Ethel Eljarrat said. – Press release