PFAS in Sparkling Water: Should You Be Cautious?
- Exposure to PFASs may be linked to higher cholesterol levels in the blood (1).
- PFAS exposure may impair the immune system, making people more prone to infections and illnesses (3).
- There is a potential link between PFAS and cancers, such as kidney and testicular cancer (4).
It's not surprising that a lot of people are switching to this fizzy refreshment given the rising popularity of sparkling water as a healthier alternative to sugary beverages. However, concerns about the presence of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in some sparkling water brands have recently surfaced. A class of synthetic chemicals called PFAS, also referred to as "forever chemicals," are distinguished by their resistance to heat, water, and oil. Despite their widespread use in a variety of sectors, such as food packaging and water-resistant textiles, potential health risks have prompted consumer concern. In this article, we examine whether you need to exercise caution when consuming sparkling water that contains PFAS. We'll look at the possible negative health effects, the regulatory environment, and offer helpful advice so you can choose your favorite fizzy drink wisely. So grab a glass of bubbly, and let's explore the world of PFAS.
What are PFAS?
A class of man-made chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been used extensively since the 1940s. They are renowned for having special qualities like resistance to heat, water, and oil. They are therefore useful in many fields, including manufacturing, firefighting, and food packaging. Products like non-stick cookware, water-resistant clothing, and even some food packaging materials frequently contain PFAS.
The persistence of PFAS in the environment is among their troubling characteristics. PFAS do not degrade quickly and can persist in the environment for a very long time due to their strong chemical bonds. It is for this reason that they are frequently referred to as "forever chemicals." Water sources, including groundwater and surface water, may become contaminated with PFAS, putting people at risk of exposure through food and drink.
Potential health risks of PFAS exposure
The possible health risks linked to exposure to PFAS have become a subject of growing concern in recent years. PFAS exposure has been linked in studies to a number of harmful health outcomes, including:
1. Increased cholesterol levels: Studies have suggested that exposure to PFASs may be linked to higher cholesterol levels in the blood (1). Heart attacks and strokes are among the cardiovascular diseases for which high cholesterol is a risk factor.
2. Thyroid hormone disruption: It has been discovered that PFAS interfere with the thyroid gland's ability to function normally and produce hormones that control metabolism and other vital bodily processes (2). Disruption of thyroid hormones can result in a variety of health problems, such as gaining weight, feeling exhausted, and having trouble thinking clearly.
3. Immune system effects: According to some studies, PFAS exposure may impair the immune system, making people more prone to infections and illnesses (3). This may have effects on your general health and happiness.
4. Cancer: While the link between PFAS exposure and cancer is still being studied, some research has indicated a potential association between certain types of PFAS and certain cancers, such as kidney and testicular cancer (4).
It's crucial to remember that the health risks linked to exposure to PFAS depend on a number of variables, including the particular PFAS, the amount and length of exposure, and individual susceptibility. However, regulatory organizations have acted to limit PFAS contamination in drinking water and other consumer products as a result of the potential risks.
The presence of PFAS in sparkling water
It is not surprising that PFAS have been found in some brands of sparkling water given their widespread use in many different industries. Nearly two-thirds of the 74 sparkling water brands tested in a study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) had detectable levels of PFAS (5). While some of the well-known brands examined in the study had higher levels of PFAS, others had barely detectable levels, according to the findings.
There are a number of reasons why PFAS are present in sparkling water. For instance, contamination may happen during the water treatment process if the source water contains PFAS or if materials containing PFAS come into contact with the sparkling water production equipment. Additionally, because the gas used to carbonate the water may contain traces of PFAS, PFAS may also be present during the carbonation process.
It's significant to note that PFAS levels can vary widely among sparkling water brands, and not all of them contain them. While some companies have taken action to lessen or completely eliminate PFAS from their products, others have not yet done so. Consumers can choose their sparkling water with greater knowledge if they are aware of the PFAS content in various brands.
Understanding the levels of PFAS in sparkling water
It's important to distinguish between PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate), the two main types of PFAS, when discussing the presence of PFAS in sparkling water. Due to their enduring presence in the environment and potential health risks, these two types have drawn more attention. According to the EWG study previously mentioned, some brands contained levels of PFOA and PFOS that were higher than those advised by outside health experts.
It's important to note that there are currently no PFAS in drinking water or sparkling water specific federal regulatory limits. Although some states have established their own standards or laws for PFAS in drinking water, these laws may also indirectly apply to sparkling water. Although these recommendations differ, they all generally aim to keep PFAS levels below a predetermined threshold to reduce any possible health risks.
Consumers can consult third-party testing or analysis carried out by organizations like the EWG to ascertain the PFAS levels in sparkling water. These organizations frequently publish their findings, which offer useful details about the quantity and presence of PFAS in particular brands. Consumers can choose their beverages more wisely by being aware of the PFAS content in various sparkling water options.
Regulatory guidelines for PFAS in drinking water
Global regulatory organizations have established standards for allowable concentrations of PFAS in drinking water after taking note of the potential risks associated with these substances. These rules are meant to safeguard the general public's health and the security of the water supply. It's crucial to remember that these recommendations are primarily geared toward drinking water and might not address sparkling water in particular.
For two PFAS types, PFOA and PFOS, found in drinking water in the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a lifetime health advisory. According to the advisory, the sum of these chemicals' concentrations shouldn't be higher than 70 parts per trillion (ppt). Guidelines or regulations regarding PFAS in drinking water have also been established by other nations and regions, including the European Union, Canada, and Australia.
Tips for reducing PFAS exposure
There are several doable steps you can take to lower your exposure if you are worried about PFAS exposure from sparkling water or other sources. Here are some ideas to think about:
1. Research the brand: Look up details on the brand of sparkling water you typically purchase. Some businesses are transparent about their manufacturing and sourcing procedures, including any measures they may have taken to reduce or get rid of PFAS.
2. Opt for filtered water: To rid your tap water of potential contaminants, such as PFAS, think about using a water filter. Look for filters that have been tested and approved by reputable organizations, or that are specifically made to remove PFAS.
3. Limit consumption: Even though occasionally consuming sparkling water containing traces of PFAS is unlikely to pose serious risks, it's best to limit your overall intake. Try drinking plain water, herbal teas, or homemade infused water instead of other, less healthy options.
4. Choose PFAS-free packaging: Think about brands that employ PFAS-free packaging materials. A safer alternative might be glass bottles or cans coated with PFAS-free materials.
5. Support companies taking action: Seek out companies that have promised to reduce or completely remove PFAS from their products. By assisting these businesses, you can persuade the market to give consumer safety and wellbeing top priority.
Alternatives to sparkling water with PFAS
There are several options available if you're worried about the presence of PFAS in sparkling water or simply want to look into alternatives. Here are a few substitutes to take into account:
1. Filtered tap water: PFAS can be eliminated from tap water by using a high-quality water filter, which you can purchase. Filtered tap water. This lets you drink sparkling water without worrying about exposure to PFAS by adding carbonation at home using a soda maker or by purchasing carbonated water.
2. Naturally-flavored sparkling water: Many manufacturers sell PFAS-free sparkling water with a natural flavor. Instead of using artificial additives, these products use actual fruit essences or extracts to deliver a refreshing flavor.
3. Infused water: Water that has been infused with flavors is a great substitute for sparkling water if you prefer flavored drinks but don't want the carbonation. Simply put, you can infuse water by adding slices of your preferred fruits, vegetables, or herbs. Without the use of artificial ingredients or additional sugars, this produces a flavorful and cooling beverage.
4. Herbal tea: Whether sipped hot or cold, herbal teas can offer a flavorful and nutritious alternative to sparkling water. They come in a variety of flavors, and you can either eat them plain or sweeten them with honey or stevia.
Always choose beverages that are consistent with your preferences and health objectives. You can find a sparkling or flavored beverage that suits your taste without compromising on potential health risks by looking into alternative options.
Brands that have the highest and lowest levels of PFAS
Even though the amounts of PFAS in various sparkling water brands can vary, it's important to give some examples of the brands with the highest and lowest concentrations of these substances. It's crucial to remember that the levels mentioned here are based on the EWG study and could change as brands work to cut back on or completely eliminate PFAS.
Brands with the highest levels of PFAS
Topo Chico, La Croix, Polar, and Bubly are some of the brands with the highest levels of PFAS, according to the EWG study. These brands contained PFAS, including PFOA and PFOS, in detectable amounts above the limits advised by outside health experts.
Brands with the lowest levels of PFAS
The study also identified brands with little to no detectable levels of PFAS. Brands with the lowest levels of PFAS. San Pellegrino, Sparkling Ice, and Schweppes are a few of these brands. Even though these brands may still have trace amounts of PFAS, they typically had lower concentrations than the previously mentioned brands.
The presence of PFAS can differ between different batches or production runs of a single brand, and this should be kept in mind. As a result, it's critical to stay informed and look for updates about the PFAS content of particular brands from reliable sources.
Conclusion: Making informed decisions about sparkling water consumption
Consumers looking for a healthier alternative to sugary beverages are concerned about the presence of PFAS in sparkling water. It's important to remember that not all sparkling water brands contain appreciable amounts of these chemicals, despite the potential health risks of PFAS exposure.
You can make wise choices about your consumption of sparkling water by being aware of the potential health risks, the legal requirements, and taking useful precautions to lower exposure. If you are worried about PFAS, do your research on the brands you use, choose filtered water, reduce your overall consumption, and think about healthier alternatives. Supporting businesses that put customer safety first can also influence the industry for the better.
Remember that knowledge is power, and with the right information, you can prioritize your health and well-being while still enjoying your favorite fizzy beverage. Cheers to making wise decisions!
- Nelson, J. W., Hatch, E. E., & Webster, T. F. (2010). Exposure to Polyfluoroalkyl Chemicals and Cholesterol, Body Weight, and Insulin Resistance in the General U.S. Population. Environmental Health Perspectives, 118(2), 197–202. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.0901165 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2831917/
- Coperchini, F., Croce, L., Ricci, G., Magri, F., Rotondi, M., Imbriani, M., & Chiovato, L. (2021). Thyroid Disrupting Effects of Old and New Generation PFAS. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fendo.2020.612320 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7851056/
- Beans, C. (2021). News Feature: How “forever chemicals” might impair the immune system. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(15), e2105018118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2105018118 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8054019/
- Steenland, K., & Winquist, A. (2021). PFAS and cancer, a scoping review of the epidemiologic evidence. Environmental Research, 194, 110690. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2020.110690 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33385391/
- EWG News Roundup (9/27): “Forever Chemicals” in California, Electric Cars Draw Ire of Big Oil and More | Environmental Working Group. (2019, September 27). www.ewg.org. https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news/ewg-news-roundup-927-forever-chemicals-california-electric-cars-draw-ire-big-oil
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