Antimony leaching from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic used for bottled drinking water.
Water Res. 2008 Feb ;42(3):551-6. Epub 2007 Aug 6. PMID: 17707454
Antimony is a regulated contaminant that poses both acute and chronic health effects in drinking water. Previous reports suggest that polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics used for water bottles in Europe and Canada leach antimony, but no studies on bottled water in the United States have previously been conducted. Nine commercially available bottled waters in the southwestern US (Arizona) were purchased and tested for antimony concentrations as well as for potential antimony release by the plastics that compose the bottles. The southwestern US was chosen for the study because of its high consumption of bottled water and elevated temperatures, which could increase antimony leaching from PET plastics. Antimony concentrations in the bottled waters ranged from 0.095 to 0.521 ppb, well below the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 6 ppb. The average concentration was 0.195+/-0.116 ppb at the beginning of the study and 0.226+/-0.160 ppb 3 months later, with no statistical differences; samples were stored at 22 degrees C. However, storage at higher temperatures had a significant effect on the time-dependent release of antimony. The rate of antimony (Sb) release could be fit by a power function model (Sb(t)=Sb 0 x[Time, h]k; k=8.7 x 10(-6)x[Temperature ( degrees C)](2.55); Sb 0 is the initial antimony concentration). For exposure temperatures of 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, and 85 degrees C, the exposure durations necessary to exceed the 6 ppb MCL are 176, 38, 12, 4.7, 2.3, and 1.3 days, respectively. Summertime temperatures inside of cars, garages, and enclosed storage areas can exceed 65 degrees C in Arizona, and thus could promote antimony leaching from PET bottled waters. Microwave digestion revealed that the PET plastic used by one brand contained 213+/-35 mgSb/kg plastic; leaching of all the antimony from this plastic into 0.5L of water in a bottle could result in an antimony concentration of 376 ppb. Clearly, only a small fraction of the antimony in PET plastic bottles is released into the water. Still, the use of alternative types of plastics that do not leach antimony should be considered, especially for climates where exposure to extreme conditions can promote antimony release from PET plastics.