The World Health Organization says it will review the potential risks of tiny plastic particles in bottled water after a study found “widespread” microplastic contamination.

A study led by researchers at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Fredonia and released by Orb Media  found signs of plastic in 93 per cent of bottled water samples collected in nine countries: United States, Brazil, Mexico, India, China, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon and Thailand.

Researchers tested nearly 260 bottles of water, which included leading brands such as Dasani, Evian, Aquafina, Nestle Pure Life and San Pellegrino.

The plastic particles identified in the study included polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used to make bottle caps. The study found that “at least part” of the microplastic contamination came from the packaging material and the bottling process itself.

In an email to CTV News, a World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson said that “currently there is no evidence” on health impacts of plastic particles found in bottled water.

But Tarik Jasarevic said the WHO is “aware that this is an emerging area of concern” for consumers and the organization’s member states. 

“Thus WHO, as part of its continuous review of new evidence on water quality, would review the very scarce available evidence with the objective of identifying evidence gaps, and establishing a research agenda to inform a more thorough risk assessment,” he said.

Chris Tyree, a reporter with Orb Media who worked on the story about the microplastics study, told CTV News Channel that the concern about bottled water was raised by leading researchers around the world.

Asked whether some of the bottled water brands included in the study had fewer plastic particles than others, Tyree replied: “There is really no one better brand, to be honest. There’s a prevalence of microplastics in all of them.”

The latest study found that plastic particles in the 0.10 millimetre size range were found in bottles of water at an average rate of 10.4 particles per litre. Even smaller particles that researchers believe are also plastic were found at a rate of 314.6 per litre.

By contrast, a previous analysis of tap water found that it only has about five pieces of plastic per litre, said Sherri Mason, the lead researcher of the bottled water study and the chair of the geology and environmental sciences department at SUNY Fredonia.

The study identified plastic particles in the water by staining them with a fluorescent Nile Red dye, which made them visible under a blue light.

Mason said there is plastic pollution in all components of our environment, including the air, bodies of water, fish and sediment.

“It’s everywhere,” she told CTV News Channel Thursday. 

But the bottled water study doesn’t mean that people “should be freaking out,” Mason said.

“But we do need to start acting. That’s, I think, the ultimate message.”

While the WHO said it will look at the microplastics issue, Jasarevic said the organization’s priority “remains promoting access to safe water for 2 billion people who currently use and drink contaminated water.”