PFAS In Sparkling Water

When we enter a supermarket, we are used to seeing plastic containers everywhere. Plastic packaging is used for most products, including sparkling water. Naturally, the plastic bottles in which the sparkling water is sold are made to contain the water as long as possible. To achieve the required durability of the plastic packaging, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are put as coatings on plastic. These may impact our health. In this blog, we will look at this group of synthetic, fluorinated molecules used in various consumer products and industrial processes. We will explore their potential health impacts and discuss the measures to protect against them.
Jakub Gwiazdecki

Jakub Gwiazdecki

Fifth year medical student at the Medical Faculty of Comenius University in Bratislava.

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PFAS in sparkling water

Because of their very broad use in the industry, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are found in many drinking water sources around the globe, including bottled sparkling water. Out of 101 bottled water products sold in the U.S., 39 showed detectable concentrations of the coating material in the water [1].

Perfluorocarboxylic acids (PFCA) and short-chain perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAA) were the most prominent substances found. In products labeled spring water, exclusively ultrashort-chain PFPrA was detected. This molecule was measured in plastic container water for the first time [1].

Recently, concerns about the health impacts of PFAS substances have been put in the spotlight [1]. These concerns are not invalid.

What are PFAS?

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are a group of synthetic fluorinated molecules. Because of their stability, they are used in various industrial processes and products [2]. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost. Their stability combined with their size causes them to accumulate in living organisms and the environment [3].

The group of PFASs includes over 4700 substances registered to date, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development [3]. The most commonly detected products belong to perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluoroundecanoic acid (PFUdA), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFDA), and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) [4].

Due to their widespread use and high persistence, PFASs have emerged as environmental contaminants. They can be measured in many biological systems, like rivers, soil, and the human body [5]. With time and research progress, PFASs have been found to have various adverse effects on health, like endocrine toxicity and immunotoxicity, as well as reproductive toxicity [5].

How do PFASs in sparkling water impact health?

One of the primary concerns is the potential effect PFAS can have on the liver. PFAS can cause hepatotoxicity (liver toxicity), leading to increased serum lipids and liver enzymes [6]. This indicates that the consumption of sparkling water from bottles containing high levels of PFAS can lead to liver damage.

Another negative health impact of PFAS molecules is that they suppress the immune response of the body. This could result in a potential decrease in the effectiveness of vaccination [6], and the affected individuals can also be more susceptible to infections.

Consumption of water with high PFAS concentrations is also able to increase the risk of shigellosis or tuberculosis. A larger amount of PFAS in the water also impacts the function and distribution of bacteria in the water. The presence of these molecules promotes the expression of pathological genes in the microorganism, increasing their pathogenicity against humans [7].

While sparkling water can be a great refreshment, it is crucial to be aware of the potential health risks associated with it when PFAS particles are present inside. To avoid the risk and simply enjoy the sparkling water, special strategies have to be applied to protect against PFAS.

Protection against PFAS

A combination of strategies has to be used to effectively protect against PFAS. This mixture of strategic approaches includes water treatment methods and appropriate consumer choices.

A very effective method to reduce the concentration of PFAS in the water is to use specific treatment methods. They vary in price and effort and include ion exchange treatment, reverse osmosis, nanofiltration, and active carbon treatment [8].

Activated carbon treatment is a widely used method that can be used at low cost and effort. In households, point-of-use (POU) water purifiers with activated carbon can remove up to 99% of PFAS from tap water [9].

Ion exchange treatment uses the magnetic properties of the PFAS particles. PFAS are negatively charged, so when positive charge ions are placed on a filter, the PFAS stick to it and are filtered out of the water [8].

High-pressure membrane techniques like nanofiltration or osmosis allow water to pass through special membranes that filter all the other substances found, including PFAS [8].

Also, mixed matrix membranes with an adsorbing component can effectively remove over 99% of the PFAS from the water [10].

Another strategy to avoid PFAS is to be aware of the things you use and ingest. PFAS can be found in many goods, including nonstick home items, food packaging, cosmetics, electronics, and firefighting foams [11]. Visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website to learn more about PFAS in daily items, how to reduce exposure, and the risks linked to them [8].

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Jakub Gwiazdecki

Jakub Gwiazdecki

Jakub is in his fifth year as a medical student at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia. He has special interested in cardiology and in patient-centered medicine. His love for heart health isn't just book-smarts; he wants to know how it works, what it means for our feelings, and how key it is for health and happiness. Jakub thinks real good health care comes from always putting the patient at the centre, treating each person as a whole.