Drinking water in the UK is not as safe as it was before the introduction of plastic bottles in 2015, according to a new study.
The Guardian reports that a group of scientists working at the University of East Anglia found that while the plastic bottles had no impact on the water quality of the environment, the drinking-cans did lead to a “significant” increase in fecal coliform levels in the drinking water.
The team of scientists, who are led by Prof Simon Peltier, said they would be able to show that drinking water in places where drinking-tables were used to keep animals in line had been affected by the plastic packaging.
In 2015, the government passed a law which allowed for plastic packaging in household drinking water supplies.
However, the law had not been enforced.
“Our study is the first to show the effects of the plastic in drinking-pails, and we are the first group to do so on a UK scale,” said Peltiers co-author Prof John Taylor.
“We also looked at the effects in drinking water systems across the UK.
The results show that there is a significant increase in faecal colitis and other faeces in areas where drinking water is stored at night.”
The researchers found that people who drank water from drinking-fountains in the winter were more likely to have faecals in their water.
“The results suggest that the plastic is not only affecting the water supply but the environment in general,” said Taylor.
Peltier told the Guardian that the research showed that “there is a large impact of plastic on wildlife and human health” and added that “if we do not take action now, this is going to be a huge problem for us”.
“There is no doubt that plastic is a threat to human health and wellbeing,” he said.
“This is why we need to act now.”
Taylor said that plastic bottles could be “very harmful” to wildlife if left out in the open.
“People are drinking water from plastic bottles that are left on a doorstep, in a garage or at a bus stop, in the park or in the bush,” he added.
“I have seen a lot of plastic in the air and I can’t imagine that people would drink water from them without first washing their hands.”
The UK Government has pledged to introduce a new plastic-bottle law, but the move has been criticised by environmental groups and campaigners.