News Release

Sunlight and plastic: the risky combination for bottled water safety

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences, MEE

Experimental system diagram.


Experimental system diagram. Two groups of pre-treatments were performed. The purpose of the first group was to analyze the generation of VOCs from the containers during the irradiation without any solution. The purpose of the second group was to analyze the VOCs from the containers during the irradiation with different solution matrices. Half the volume of the containers was filled with solution. Two groups of irradiation experiments were conducted under the assumption that the bottled water was exposed to sunlight in a place. The first group was solar treatment, while the second group was UV-A-treated experiment. The VOCs were analyzed by SPME and GC-MS.

view more 

Credit: Eco-Environment & Health

A new study delves into the potential health risks posed by the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from plastic water bottles when exposed to sunlight. The research, which systematically examined the composition and toxicity of VOCs emitted under ultraviolet-A (UV-A)  and solar irradiation, underscores the need for safer storage practices to ensure drinking water safety.

Plastic water bottles are ubiquitous due to their convenience, yet they harbor potential risks. Sunlight exposure can lead these containers to degrade and emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are potentially detrimental to human health. The booming bottled water market underscores the urgency for safer alternatives. In response to these concerns, there is a pressing need for in-depth research into more secure materials and production methods for water containers.

A new research (DOI: 10.1016/j.eehl.2024.01.005) by the Guangdong Key Laboratory of Environmental Pollution and Health, Jinan University, and published in Eco-Environment & Health on 8 February 2024, provides fresh insights into how sunlight can transform plastic water bottles into sources of air pollution.

The research analyzed the VOCs released from six types of plastic water bottles subjected to UV-A and sunlight. Results showed that all tested bottles emitted a complex mixture of alkanes, alkenes, alcohols, aldehydes, and acids, with significant variations in VOC composition and concentration among the bottles. Notably, highly toxic VOCs, including carcinogens like n-hexadecane, were identified, highlighting serious health risks. Prolonged exposure scenarios indicated an increased concentration of VOCs, pointing to a growing cumulative risk.

Dr. Huase Ou, the lead researcher, remarked, "Our findings provide compelling evidence that plastic bottles, when exposed to sunlight, can release toxic compounds that pose health risks. Consumers need to be aware of these risks, especially in environments where bottled water is exposed to sunlight for prolonged periods."

This study not only casts light on the chemical stability of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles but also carries significant implications for public health and safety regulations. Understanding the conditions under which these VOCs are released can guide the improvement of manufacturing practices and material selection for bottled water containers. Furthermore, it underscores the need for enhanced consumer awareness and stricter industry regulations to reduce exposure to these potentially harmful compounds.





Original Source URL

Funding information

This project is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 42377373) and Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai) (No. SML2021SP208).

About Eco-Environment & Health (EEH)

Eco-Environment & Health (EEH) is an international and multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal designed for publications on the frontiers of the ecology, environment and health as well as their related disciplines. EEH focuses on the concept of "One Health" to promote green and sustainable development, dealing with the interactions among ecology, environment and health, and the underlying mechanisms and interventions. Our mission is to be one of the most important flagship journals in the field of environmental health.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.