Mineral Water: Mostly Clean, But Not Always

Mineral Water: Mostly Clean, But Not Always

Recent laboratory tests reveal that four out of ten mineral waters contain traces of weedkillers, fungal toxins, microplastics, or PFAS. Although mineral water comes from protected spring catchments where bacteria are naturally filtered out, chemical contaminants from human activities can persist for years.

Contaminants in Popular Brands

Tests conducted by the Swiss program RTS and Kassensturz on ten common mineral waters found contaminants in several brands:

  • Swiss Alpina and San Pellegrino: Traces of microplastics were detected.
  • Valser: Minute quantities of PFBA, a PFAS group substance, were found.

Despite these findings, toxicologist Davide Städler from Tibio laboratory assures that these levels are "not acutely dangerous for humans." However, there are currently no limits for microplastics in drinking water due to the uncertainty of their long-term effects.

Manufacturers, including Coca-Cola (owner of Valser), claim their tests do not show such contaminants. They state that PFAS, including PFBA, are part of their routine water monitoring programs.

What Are the Sources of Contamination?

Microplastic contamination can occur during the bottling process through machines or from the materials used, such as lids or containers. PET bottles themselves can also release microplastics into the water.

Non-carbonated Henniez was found to contain traces of chlorothalonil and chloridazon, a fungal poison and a weedkiller. These pesticides have been used in agriculture for years, and while chlorothalonil has been banned in Switzerland since 2020, certain degradation products still pose potential health risks according to EU and Swiss authorities.

What Are the Potential Health Risks?

The detected pesticide levels in Henniez are well below the legal limits for drinking water. Nestlé Waters Switzerland emphasizes that these levels are not hazardous to health. Nonetheless, the presence of these traces highlights the potential for pesticide contamination in natural springs.

Earlier this year, Henniez faced scrutiny for using activated carbon filters to purify their mineral water. These filters, intended to remove environmental contaminants, did not comply with Swiss regulations for mineral water and have since been removed by Nestlé. In conclusion, while most mineral waters are safe, the detection of various contaminants indicates the need for ongoing vigilance and regulation to ensure water quality. Consumers should be aware of these issues and the steps taken by manufacturers to address them.