Friday, September 5, 2014

Plastic Microparticles Found In Beers

Contaminated brewski
Examples of microplastic contaminations in German beers. White arrows indicate non-stained synthetic material.
Gerd Liebezeita & Elisabeth Liebezeita

Beer lovers: there may be more to your brew than dazzling citrus overtones or a subtle chocolatey aroma.

The authors of a new study went to a local supermarket in Germany and picked up 24 brands of beer, including the 10 most popular in the country. In the lab, they found plastic particles and other debris in everything they tested. The study was part of a larger investigation of plastic microfibres that are turning up all over the natural world as larger plastics break down. (In June, Illinois became the first state to ban plastic beads in cosmetics, which are thought to be one source of the pollution.)

How the plastic ended up in beer is an open question. The paper notes than some of the brands claim to use only spring water in their products, and sand particles often found around springs also showed up under the microscope. Malfunctioning equipment, unclean bottles, and even contaminated barley and hops are all possible sources. Beer may be filtered with activated charcoal, asbestos, wood chippings and other materials that could carry plastics.

The study only gets more shudder-worthy when it turns to the other debris they found.

"Workers in breweries lose, as any other people, the outer part of their epidermis," they write.

Scales of exfoliated skin were found in both small and larger chunks, along with bits of glass and even an "almost complete" dead insect.

Other filth
Non-synthetic particles in beer: (A) insect remain, order Thysanoptera; and (B) glass shard. Scale = 3.1 mm.
Gerd Liebezeita & Elisabeth Liebezeita

The study concludes that none of the samples contained enough plastic or other materials to present a danger to the public. The important takeaway, the authors write, is that if these tiny plastic bits are making it into beer, they have penetrated the human environment.

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