Best of our wild blogs: 15 Mar 18

Feeding the 5000 Singapore
Green Drinks Singapore

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Babies of critically endangered Singapore Freshwater Crab hatched in captivity

For the first time, Johora singaporensis crablets have been successfully hatched outside of their natural environment, as part of efforts to repopulate the critically endangered species
Vanessa Lim Channel NewsAsia 15 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: For the first time, Johora singaporensis crablets have been successfully hatched outside of their natural environment, as part of efforts to repopulate the critically endangered species.

Led by the Crab Working Group, which includes members from the National Parks Board (NParks), the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), the effort resulted in more than 40 crablets being hatched and subsequently growing into healthy juveniles.

They are the offspring of one pregnant female crab that was among a few of the crustaceans collected by researchers in December last year.

"If we manage to bring all these 40-plus crablets to full maturity, it will represent a fairly significant proportion of crabs out there in total,” said Mr Lim Liang Jim, group director of NParks' National Biodiversity Centre.

Typically found in fast-moving streams in hills, the Johora singaporensis, commonly known as the Singapore Freshwater Crab, is one of three known species of crabs that can only be found in Singapore.

However, with researchers estimating the current adult population of the species to be in the hundreds, the pebble-sized freshwater crab is on the brink of extinction. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers it critically endangered and among the 100 most threatened species worldwide.

To ensure the successful hatching of the eggs, researchers modified tanks to be similar to the crab’s natural habitat. This includes using water taken from the streams, as well as installing pumps to mimic the fast-flowing current and oxygen-rich water it lives in.

Additional measures, such as separating the crablets from each other as well as the mother crab, were also taken to increase their chances of survival. This is because Johora singaporensis are known to be a relatively aggressive species, with past cases of cannibalism and fights leading to death.

With very little known about the species, researchers hope to learn more about the ecology and biology of the crabs by observing them. Going forward, the researchers will be looking at getting male and female crabs to mate and breed.

“Our ultimate aim is to build up the pool of specimens to where we can release and repopulate the wild population," said Mr Lim.

Source: CNA/ec

Crab hatching in captivity a breakthrough for NParks
It spells hope for the endangered Singapore freshwater crab
Audrey Tan Straits Times 15 Mar 18;

At first glance, the tiny, colourless baby crabs kept in tanks at the National Parks Board's (NParks) Botanic Gardens headquarters are hardly impressive.

But looks are deceiving: These crablets, each barely the length of a fingernail, will play a crucial role in helping to ensure the survival of their kind.

The brood of more than 40 crablets represents a glimmer of hope in the future of the critically endangered Singapore freshwater crab (Johora singaporensis).

They hatched in January, the first time this has occurred in captivity, under the watchful eye of Dr Daniel Ng, manager of NParks' National Biodiversity Centre and one of the scientists involved in the conservation of the Singapore freshwater crab.

NParks now plans to closely study these elusive crustaceans before releasing them into the wild, in a bid to boost populations. Currently, there are only an estimated few hundred mature individuals out there, according to NParks.

As scavengers, crabs play important roles in the ecosystem, helping to clean up the environment by feeding on waste material.

The Singapore freshwater crab, found only in certain areas in the Republic and nowhere else in the world, was discovered in 1986 by crab expert Peter Ng, now the head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at National University of Singapore (NUS).

In 2014, a freshwater crab working group led by NParks and comprising experts from institutions such as NUS and the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) was formed to look into a long-term population enhancement, monitoring and breeding programme for the Singapore freshwater crab. NParks' latest breakthrough is part of this effort.

NUS Assistant Professor Darren Yeo, who studies crabs, said the brooding and hatching of juvenile crabs in an individual female Johora singaporensis was a "very positive development". Captive breeding of these freshwater crabs is tricky because the biology of these animals is relatively poorly understood.

He added: "An important next step would be to try to ascertain and understand the environmental conditions that led to the successful brooding... to hopefully replicate or apply them to facilitate breeding of these crabs in captivity."

Indeed, little else is known about the crab, except that it is a fussy creature, starting with where it lives. The crab can be found only in the hilly streams of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Bukit Batok and Bukit Gombak, nutrient-rich rivulets formed from ground water and rain.

"These crabs seem to thrive in oxygen-rich waters, and hilly streams are usually fast-flowing, which helps to aerate the water," said NParks' Dr Ng.

Conditions also have to be just right before they decide to have their babies. The latest batch of baby crabs was the first successful hatching after some three years of work by the researchers.

In earlier attempts, the mother crab simply would not carry the eggs to term, Dr Ng said.

Freshwater crabs such as Johora singaporensis carry their eggs under their abdomen until the crablets - baby crabs that look similar to adults - emerge, unlike marine crabs which release eggs as tiny larvae that drift through the currents.

Scientists were left scratching their heads as to why the eggs would not hatch. But nature knows best, they decided, and tried to ensure that the tanks the crabs were kept in were kept as similar to their natural environment as possible.

One change in the successful brooding attempt, for example, was to ensure that water in the tanks came from the streams in which the crabs were found. Previously, the scientists had mixed nutrients with treated tap water. The "au naturel" strategy seemed to work, with the crablets hatching after about a month.

A spokesman for WRS said: "Water and substrate from the stream, although not critical for growth and survival of the crabs, seem to be essential for the successful hatching of crablets. The working group will continue to learn more about the various requirements for this species to ensure a safe and healthy population for them in Singapore."

Being able to observe the baby crabs up close also gave the scientists the opportunity to collect valuable information. For example, they found that the crabs grew very slowly. When they hatched in January, the crablets measured about 3mm. Now, two months later, they are about 4mm. Adults grow to 2-3cm in size and live for about three years.

On NParks' latest breakthrough, NUS' Prof Ng, told The Straits Times: "I am heartened to know NParks has managed to get these animals to cooperate. I congratulate them and the people who have made this happen - it's good news.

"I discovered this critter over 30 years ago by chance - my job is long since done - it's now up to the next generation of biologists to make sure it is around for another million years!"

Tiny treasures: Five other types of freshwater crabs native to Singapore


This endangered crab can be found only in the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment nature reserves, and nowhere else in the world. Growing up to 2cm, it feeds on leaf litter and small invertebrates.


This endangered crab usually buries itself in leaf litter during the day, and emerges at night to forage for food. It can grow up to 4cm and can be found only in Singapore, in places such as the Nee Soon Swamp Forest.


Found in Singapore and Johor, Malaysia, this crab has been observed to be semi-terrestrial, digging burrows or taking shelter under rocks on the stream bank. It can be found at Bukit Timah Hill, in areas which get plenty of shade and with heavy leaf cover. It was named after the mythical Greek goddess of divine anger and retribution, Nemesis, for the adult crab's bright red colours and fierce disposition.


This nocturnal crab is commonly found in Singapore, in streams across the island and in nature reserves. It can also be found in Malaysia and the southern part of Sumatra, Indonesia. It can grow up to 6cm.


This crab, which can grow up to 1.15cm, is considered vulnerable to extinction here. It is semi-terrestrial. It has reportedly been found around pitcher plants and, on occasion, inside the pitcher itself.

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More than 20 hectares of land reserved for orchid nurseries in first such move

Channel NewsAsia 14 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: More than 20 hectares of land have been set aside for orchid nurseries in the first such move here, highlighting the importance of the national flower to Singapore.

The reserved land parcels will be located in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah, with the first tranche available for tender from June this year, the National Parks Board (NParks) said in a media release on Wednesday (Mar 14).

The locations of the orchid land parcels will be in close proximity to sites set aside for landscape nurseries, in order to allow operators to "aggregate and share resources", said NParks.

"This is the first time that land has been allocated for orchid nurseries by NParks, demonstrating the importance of orchids to Singapore’s heritage," it said in the release.

The land parcels will be available in two tenancy options.

One-hectare plots will be available under a tenancy model with renewal every three years, and two-hectare plots will be available under a model with renewal every 10 years.

The first four orchid nursery plots will be released for tender this year in two tranches, with the first tranche of two-hectare plots available for sale from June.

More tranches will be tendered in "2019 and beyond", NParks added.

Plots will come with some basic infrastructure "built up to the front gate", said the agency, adding that this will enable nurseries to quickly move in and will help them defray upfront capital investments.

It also explained that three-year renewal tenures are beneficial to nurseries who prefer paying monthly rental fees rather than an upfront land premium, while the 10-year renewal tenures require an upfront land premium payment and are intended to benefit nurseries that "intend to invest substantially in their operations".

Bidders must be qualified under the Nursery Accreditation Scheme prior to tender, said NParks.

Proposals will be evaluated on price and quality criteria, including the bidder's track record, proposed physical site layout and business concept and the use of technology to improve productivity and encourage innovation.

About 20 orchid nurseries are currently operating in Singapore and occupy land in locations including Seletar, Sungei Tengah and Lim Chu Kang.

NParks took over management of orchid nurseries from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority at the beginning of the year, and Wednesday's announcement is part of the agency's plans to develop land for orchid nurseries.

The agency will also work with orchid nurseries on the orchid industry masterplan to "sustain, grow and transform the sector", it said.

Source: CNA/nc

More than 20 hectares set aside for orchid nurseries
Today Online 14 Mar 18;

Area currently occupied by 21 orchid growers spans over 40 hectares; first tender will be called in June

SINGAPORE — More than 20 hectares of land in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah have been set aside for orchid growers and the National Parks Board (NParks) will tender the first plots of land in June.

This is six months ahead of schedule, and in response to feedback from the industry, said NParks in a media statement on Wednesday (March 14). But the area set aside is about half of more than 40 hectares currently occupied by 21 orchid growers in Seletar, Sungei Tengah and Lim Chu Kang.

The first batch of plots up for tender will be two-hectare plots with 10-year leases that are renewable for another 10 years.

In future, there will be plots that are one hectare in size, with three-year tenures that are renewable every three years. This will cater to the needs of different nurseries, said NParks, which held a briefing for orchid farmers on Wednesday morning.

Farmers who secure the longer lease will have to make an upfront payment of a land premium, and will likely be those that plan to invest substantially in their operations.

Farmers on the shorter leases will pay monthly rental fees instead of an upfront land premium.

Bidders will be assessed on their track records, business concepts and innovation to ensure the tender is awarded “not only to the highest bidder”, said NParks, which took over the management of orchid nurseries from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) at the start of this year. It now manages all plant nurseries.

NParks said the land parcels will come with some basic infrastructure built up to the front gate. This will enable the nurseries to move in more quickly and help defray upfront capital investments.

The land parcels will be close to plots aside for landscape nurseries and this could allow the businesses to share resources, it said.

Although orchids are a distinct part of Singapore’s heritage – the Vanda Miss Joaquim hybrid was named the national flower in 1981 – the industry has lost some of its lustre in recent decades.

In January, TODAY reported on the challenges faced by local producers. Aside from high labour costs and shorter land leases, they face fierce competition from places like Thailand and Taiwan, which are able to produce the flowers more cheaply.

In 2016, Singapore slipped a notch to become the world’s fourth-largest orchid exporter (in terms of value of exports) after being overtaken by Taiwan. The Netherlands and Thailand took the top two spots.

Local orchid production fell to a 10-year low in 2016, according to the AVA’s statistics. Between 2007 and 2016, orchid production fell starkly by 40 per cent — from 10 million to six million stalks. But this could be partly due to some farmers shifting their business from stalk orchids towards mature, potted orchids.

NParks said it would continue to engage orchid nurseries to formulate an industry masterplan.

With orchid nurseries now part of the landscape sector, growers are eligible for the government’s Landscape Productivity Grant that will co-fund investments in machinery and technology by up to S$300,000, it said.

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World's energy systems struggle to go from brown to green, new study finds

David Fogarty Straits Times 14 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE - Most of the world's energy systems have become more accessible and more secure but not any greener, a study published on Wednesday (March 14) by the World Economic Forum (WEF) found.

In collaboration with advisory firm McKinsey and Company, the study, "Fostering Effective Energy Transition", looked at the energy systems of 114 countries which accounted for more than 98 per cent of global gross domestic product, focusing on their electricity grids as well as fuels for transport and cooking.

The authors found that over the past five years global progress towards environmental sustainability has stalled. Environmental sustainability refers to how green energy systems are, particularly the electricity sector, and whether electricity production is becoming more environmentally friendly over time by steadily reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) and improving air and water pollution.

"The energy transition is one of the key challenges facing society today," said Pedro Gomez Pensado, Head of Oil and Gas Industry at the WEF and leader of the forum's energy transition project.

"Energy systems definitely need to move into better environmental performance," he said. "This is something that is not only important, there is a sense of urgency," he told The Straits Times.

The authors wanted to see how well prepared national energy systems are to switching to greener power as a key part in fighting climate change. Mr Gomez Pensado said the findings would help countries, particularly developing countries, create a road map to improve their energy infrastructure to bring electricity to more people and boost growth without pumping more CO2 into the air.

Globally, the energy system, through burning fossil fuels, is responsible for more than two-thirds of mankind's greenhouse gas emissions. Burning coal in power stations and steel-making is by far the single largest source of CO2 that scientists say is heating up the planet. So cutting emissions, particularly from the electricity sector, will be crucial in limiting global warming.

The report's authors benchmarked each of the countries against a series of standards, namely how well they are able to balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability. Other metrics included the strength of regulation and government institutions, access to capital markets and an inventive, nimble business sector that is quick to adapt.

The authors found that Singapore ranked 12th and Malaysia 15th in the index. By comparison, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland made up the top three. Britain came in at 7th and France 9th, the only G-7 economies in the top 10.

"Although Singapore has a well-functioning energy system, it ranks below most advanced economies on the system performance component of the index. High CO2 emissions per capita and dependence on energy imports are the key indicators that affect Singapore's energy system performance," says the report.

However, Singapore ranked 9th globally on the readiness component of the index. "Strong institutions and regulatory frameworks, culture of innovation, and modern infrastructure will enable Singapore's energy transition," the authors say.

The United States scored 25th, ranking poorly on environmental sustainability, but lifted by strong innovation and vibrant capital markets. China ranked 76th, but achieved "leapfrog status" because of recent mandates for electric vehicles and political commitment to addressing environmental challenges, such as creating a national carbon trading market. Its performance suffered because coal is still the major source of energy. India came in at 78th and Indonesia 53rd.

Switching to a greener energy, though, is no small challenge. More than one billion people lack access to electricity and nations will face demands for energy from an additional two billion people by 2050, the report said. Delivering that energy at an affordable cost and with a declining CO2 emissions is a huge challenge, say the authors, but also an economic opportunity in embracing new types of energy.

"There have been important technological advancements. Many renewable energies are becoming very cost-effective," said Gomez Pensado.

"It is important that all countries start thinking about this and build their road maps of where they want to get to. There are many technologies available and they have to look at everything that is in the menu," he added.

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Indonesia: Rafflesia tuan-mudae blooms in Maninjau forest

Antara 14 Mar 18;

Illustration. Rafflesia flower that has been dried on Bioresources LIPI Expo. (ANTARA FOTO/Jafkhairi)

Lubukbasung, W Sumatra (ANTARA News) - Rafflesia tuan-mudae is in bloom in Maninjau Nature Reserve in Marambuang, Agam District, West Sumatra Province.

The flower was already blooming on the third day, Ade Putra, forest ecosystem ranger of the Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) in Agam Resort, said here on Tuesday.

"This flower blooms perfectly for seven to 10 days. After that, the petals become black and rotted," he said.

Rafflesia tuan-mudae is a male flower which has five petals and diameter of 84.8 centimeter.

A Rafflesia tuan-mudae also bloomed on February 26, 2018 in this location. In late 2017, a giant Rafflesia tuan-mudae having a diameter of 107 cm, believed to be the world`s largest, had also found in bloom in the forest.

"This is based on the world record because earlier the largest Rafflesia was found in the Philippines with its diameter reached 100 cm," he said.

Currently there are 43 flower buds of Rafflesia in the location with an area of about 2x2 meters.

"The very young buds will bloom within two years," he said.

The habitat of Rafflesia was first discovered by local people cleaning waterways.

At that time, a local people saw objects such as a lump of animal flesh in October 2017.

The villagers later took closer looks and found the rare giant flowers, so they reported their findings to the wali nagari or the head of the custom village.

Following the information, the wali nagari contacted BKSDA officers of Agam Resort and the officers later went directly to the location to see the flowers.

"When we conducted the observation, we found 78 buds and we immediately shared the leaflets to keep the flowers safe," he added.

Secretary of Tourism Office of Youth and Sports of Agam, Jufri said the local government in cooperation with the BKSDA has carried out conservation activities in the area which is potential to become an eco-tourism destination.

The local officials will intensify promotion of Rafflesia habitats which are also found in in Matur, Baso and Palupuh Sub-districts.

"The promotion will be stepped up via mass media, billboards and leaflets," he said.

Reported by Altas Maulana
(T.KR-TQA/f001 )
Editor: Heru Purwanto

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Plastic particles found in bottled water

David Shukman BBC 15 Mar 18;

Tests on major brands of bottled water have found that nearly all of them contained tiny particles of plastic.

In the largest investigation of its kind, 250 bottles bought in nine different countries were examined.

Research led by journalism organisation Orb Media discovered an average of 10 plastic particles per litre, each larger than the width of a human hair.

Companies whose brands were tested told the BBC that their bottling plants were operated to the highest standards.

The tests were conducted at the State University of New York in Fredonia.

Sherri Mason, a professor of chemistry at the university, conducted the analysis and told BBC News: "We found [plastic] in bottle after bottle and brand after brand.

"It's not about pointing fingers at particular brands; it's really showing that this is everywhere, that plastic has become such a pervasive material in our society, and it’s pervading water - all of these products that we consume at a very basic level."

Currently, there is no evidence that ingesting very small pieces of plastic (microplastics) can cause harm, but understanding the potential implications is an active area of science.

Commenting on the results, Prof Mason said: "It's not catastrophic, the numbers that we're seeing, but it is concerning."

Experts have told the BBC that people in developing countries where tap water may be polluted should continue to drink water from plastic bottles.

Contacted to comment on the findings, the companies behind the brands have insisted that their products meet the highest standards for safety and quality.

They also point to the absence of any regulations on microplastics and of the lack of standardised methods of testing for them.

Last year, Prof Mason found plastic particles in samples of tap water and other researchers have spotted them in seafood, beer, sea salt and even the air.

This latest work comes amid growing international attention on plastic, fuelled by the BBC's acclaimed Blue Planet 2 series in which Sir David Attenborough highlighted the threat of plastic waste in our oceans.

The research into bottled water involved buying packs from 11 different global and national brands in countries chosen for their large populations or their relatively high consumption of bottled water. These were:

Leading international brands:

Nestle Pure Life
San Pellegrino
Leading national brands included:

Aqua (Indonesia)
Bisleri (India)
Epura (Mexico)
Gerolsteiner (Germany)
Minalba (Brazil)
Wahaha (China)

To eliminate any risk of contamination, purchases in shops and deliveries to courier companies were recorded on video. Some packs in the US were ordered over the internet.

The screening for plastic involved adding a dye called Nile Red to each bottle, a technique recently developed by British scientists for the rapid detection of plastic in seawater.

Previous studies have established how the dye sticks to free-floating pieces of plastic and makes them fluoresce under certain wavelengths of light.

Prof Mason and her colleagues filtered their dyed samples and then counted every piece larger than 100 microns – roughly the diameter of a human hair.

Some of these particles – large enough to be handled individually - were then analysed by infrared spectroscopy, confirmed as plastic and further identified as particular types of polymer.

Particles smaller than 100 microns – and down to a size of 6.5 microns – were much more numerous (an average of 314 per litre) and were counted using a technique developed in astronomy for totalling the number of stars in the night sky.

The make-up of these particles was not confirmed but Prof Mason said they can "rationally expected to be plastic".

This is because although Nile Red dye can bind to substances other than plastic - such as fragments of shell or algae containing lipids - these would be unlikely to be present in bottled water.

Since the study has not been through the usual process of peer review and publication in a scientific journal, the BBC has asked experts in the field to comment.

Dr Andrew Mayes, of the University of East Anglia and one of the pioneers of the Nile Red technique, told us it was "very high quality analytical chemistry" and that the results were "quite conservative".

Michael Walker, a consultant to the Office of the UK Government Chemist and founder board member of the Food Standards Agency, said the work was "well conducted" and that the use of Nile Red has "a very good pedigree".

Both of them emphasised that the particles below 100 microns had not been identified as plastic but said that since the alternatives would not be expected in bottled water, they could be described as "probably plastic".

One obvious question is where this plastic may be coming from. Given the amount of polypropylene, which is used in bottle caps, one theory is that the act of opening a bottle may shed particles inside.

To check that the process of testing was not itself adding plastic to the bottles, Prof Mason ran "blanks" in which the purified water used to clean the glassware and the acetone used to dilute the Nile Red dye were themselves investigated.

Small quantities of plastic were found in them – believed to be from the air - but these were subtracted from the final results.

A surprise to researchers was the wide variety of findings – 17 of the 259 bottles tested showed no evidence of plastic but all of the rest did, with big differences even within brands.

A few bottles were found to have thousands of particles - the vast majority being the smaller ones that are "probably plastic" - but others from the same pack had virtually none.

We contacted the companies involved and most responded.

Nestle told us its own internal testing for microplastics began more than two years ago and had not detected any "above trace level". A spokesman added that Prof Mason’s study missed key steps to avoid "false positives" but he invited Orb Media to compare methods.

Gerolsteiner also said it had been testing its water for microplastics for a number of years and that the results showed levels "significantly below the limits for particles" set for pharmaceutical companies. It said it could not understand how Prof Mason’s study reached its conclusions.

It also said its measures exceeded industry standards but added that microparticles are "everywhere" so "the possibility of them entering the product from ambient air or packaging materials during the bottling process can therefore not be completely ruled out".

Coca-Cola said it had some of the most stringent quality standards in the industry and used a "multi-step filtration process". But it too acknowledged that microplastics "appear to be ubiquitous and therefore may be found at minute levels even in highly treated products".

Danone said it could not comment on the study because "the methodology used is unclear" but added that its own bottles had "food grade packaging".

It pointed out that there are no regulations on microplastics or a scientific consensus on how to test for them, and it also highlighted a much smaller German study last year that found plastic particles in single use bottles but not above a statistically significant amount.

PepsiCo asked the American Beverage Association to respond on its behalf.

It said the industry "stood by the safety of our bottled water" and described the science of microplastics as "nascent and an emerging field requiring continued expert analysis, peer-reviewed research and collaboration across many stakeholders".

The full Orb Media report can be found at

WHO launches health review after microplastics found in 90% of bottled water
Researchers find levels of plastic fibres in popular bottled water brands could be twice as high as those found in tap water
Graham Readfearn The Guardian 15 Mar 18;

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water after a new analysis of some of the world’s most popular bottled water brands found that more than 90% contained tiny pieces of plastic. A previous study also found high levels of microplastics in tap water.

In the new study, analysis of 259 bottles from 19 locations in nine countries across 11 different brands found an average of 325 plastic particles for every litre of water being sold.

In one bottle of Nestlé Pure Life, concentrations were as high as 10,000 plastic pieces per litre of water. Of the 259 bottles tested, only 17 were free of plastics, according to the study.

Scientists based at the State University of New York in Fredonia were commissioned by journalism project Orb Media to analyse the bottled water.

The scientists wrote they had “found roughly twice as many plastic particles within bottled water” compared with their previous study of tap water, .

Scientists used Nile red dye to fluoresce particles in the water – the dye tends to stick to the surface of plastics but not most natural materials.

The study has not been published in a journal and has not been through scientific peer review. Dr Andrew Mayes, a University of East Anglia scientist who developed the Nile red technique, told Orb Media he was “satisfied that it has been applied carefully and appropriately, in a way that I would have done it in my lab”.

The brands Orb Media said it had tested were: Aqua (Danone), Aquafina (PepsiCo), Bisleri (Bisleri International), Dasani (Coca-Cola), Epura (PepsiCo), Evian (Danone), Gerolsteiner (Gerolsteiner Brunnen), Minalba (Grupo Edson Queiroz), Nestlé Pure Life (Nestlé), San Pellegrino (Nestlé) and Wahaha (Hangzhou Wahaha Group).

A World Health Organisation spokesman told the Guardian that although there was not yet any evidence on impacts on human health, it was aware it was an emerging area of concern. The spokesman said the WHO would “review the very scarce available evidence with the objective of identifying evidence gaps, and establishing a research agenda to inform a more thorough risk assessment.”

A second unrelated analysis, also just released, was commissioned by campaign group Story of Stuff and examined 19 consumer bottled water brands in the US.It also found plastic microfibres were widespread.

The brand Boxed Water contained an average of 58.6 plastic fibres per litre. Ozarka and Ice Mountain, both owned by Nestlé, had concentrations at 15 and 11 pieces per litre, respectively. Fiji Water had 12 plastic fibres per litre.

Abigail Barrows, who carried out the research for Story of Stuff in her laboratory in Maine, said there were several possible routes for the plastics to be entering the bottles.

“Plastic microfibres are easily airborne. Clearly that’s occurring not just outside but inside factories. It could come in from fans or the clothing being worn,” she said.

Stiv Wilson, campaign coordinator at Story of Stuff, said finding plastic contamination in bottled water was problematic “because people are paying a premium for these products”.

Jacqueline Savitz, of campaign group Oceana, said: “We know plastics are building up in marine animals and this means we too are being exposed, some of us every day. Between the microplastics in water, the toxic chemicals in plastics and the end-of-life exposure to marine animals, it’s a triple whammy.”

Nestlé criticised the methodology of the Orb Media study, claiming in a statement to CBC that the technique using Nile red dye could “generate false positives”.

Coca-Cola told the BBC it had strict filtration methods, but acknowledged the ubiquity of plastics in the environment meant plastic fibres “may be found at minute levels even in highly treated products”.

A Gerolsteiner spokesperson said the company, too, could not rule out plastics getting into bottled water from airborne sources or from packing processes. The spokesperson said concentrations of plastics in water from their own analyses were lower than those allowed in pharmaceutical products.

Danone claimed the Orb Media study used a methodology that was “unclear”. The American Beverage Association said it “stood by the safety” of its bottled water, adding that the science around microplastics was only just emerging.

The Guardian contacted Nestlé and Boxed Water for comment on the Story of Stuff study, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

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