Plastic bottles raise hormonal activity of bottled spring water.

Apr 22, 2011

Wagner, M, and J Oehlmann 2011. Endocrine disruptors in bottled mineral water: Estrogenic activity in the E-Screen. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, ISSN 0960-0760, DOI: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2010.10.007.

Synopsis by Brandon Moore

Mineral water from European springs that is packaged in plastic bottles has higher hormonal activity in human cell testing than the same spring water packaged in glass containers.

Plastic bottles can further contaminate natural spring water with estrogen active compounds, report researchers who tested and compared water from the same sources but was bottled in either glass or plastic.

The water in the plastic containers triggered up to 90 percent more activity in the human cell assays used than the water in the glass containers. Hormone activity was measured by the increase in growth rate of the exposed human breast cancer cells – which are sensitive to estrogen hormones.

The results suggest that some springs used by water bottlers initially contain estrogenic chemicals, but the process of bottling in plastic further increases the waters estrogenic potential.

The hormonal activity detected in the bottled water supports similar findings of four other recently published studies. Taken together, they  show that both the source of bottled water and the bottling materials affect the level of hormone-influencing contaminants in the water.

The German researchers bought bottled mineral water packaged by several different companies and tested it for estrogen responsiveness in a human cell assay.

The commercially-bottled mineral water from natural springs in France, Germany, and Italy showed estrogenic activity in 61 percent (11 of 18) of samples studied. This estrogenic activity was 60-90 percent greater in water packaged in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles, as compared to glass.

Notably, this increase in hormonal activity due to plastic bottling material over glass was repeatedly observed in water packaged at the same sources.

A growing list of chemicals are able to mimic and activate hormone signaling pathways inside of cells, including those normally controlled by estrogens. Usually, a mix of hormone-mimicking compounds contaminate the environment and contribute to the overall hormone activity measures.

This current study did not measure the presence of specific compounds in the bottled water. The specially designed living cells measured the total estrogenic activity of the water samples. Researchers used the E-Screen technique in which estrogenic samples increase the growth rate of estrogen-dependent human MCF7 cells. This bioassay technique can better measure the actual biological effects of exposure to real-life relevant mixtures of chemicals than studying individual chemicals one at a time.


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