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Under the Radar – Worrying Molecule Found in Bottled Water

by on 2013/10/21

This is Research The Headlines’ first “Under the Radar” article, where our experts will discuss discoveries of public interest that have not been covered in the mainstream media.

A recent study by German researchers has identified a worrying compound in certain bottled waters. The endocrine disruptor di-(2-ethylhexyl)fumarate, which can interfere with hormone production, was identified using a combination of biological assays, mass spectrometry and computer simulations. Surprisingly, in the 18 samples the team investigated, they were able to detect antiestrogenicity (alteration of female hormone production) in 13 samples and antiandrogenicity (alteration of male hormone production) in 16 samples.  Whilst di-(2-ethylhexyl)fumarate was responsible for the former, an as yet unknown chemical is responsible for the latter behaviour.

The story was picked up by the chemical press, but did not receive widespread coverage, despite the potential implications.  It is worth noting that the study did not measure the actual levels of these contaminants in the bottled water, and that sophisticated analytical techniques can detect ever more minute quantities of contaminants at levels well below any risk to human health.  Clearly further research is required into the potential contamination of bottled water: where are these compounds coming from, what are their acceptable background levels, and are there any we have missed?

Wagner M, Schlüsener MP, Ternes TA, Oehlmann J (2013) Identification of Putative Steroid Receptor Antagonists in Bottled Water: Combining Bioassays and High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry. PLoS ONE 8(8): e72472. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072472

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