Scientists find antimony in juice above EU drinking water limits

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Polyethylene terephthalate Water Bottled water

Scientists have found antimony levels in commercial juices and cordials that exceed the EU limit for drinking water and raise concern about leaching from packaging.

Writing in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring, scientists at the University of Copenhagen studied antimony levels in various juices, mainly red fruit juices, packaged in PET bottles, glass bottles and Tetra Pak cartons.

Studying antimony levels is of interest because of concern about the impact of increased exposure on human health and the environment. Of particular concern is antimony trioxide, a suspected carcinogen that is used in the production of PET.

Acidic impact

Previous studies had found that organic acids are efficient extractants of antimony so Claus Hansen and colleagues at the University of Copenhagen therefore decided to test the hypothesis that more antimony could be present in PET packaged acidic fruit drinks than PET bottled water.

Looking at 42 juice drinks from 16 different brands, the scientists found antimony concentrations above EU limits for drinking water in eight products. The scientists said there are no previous reports of beverages exceeding this limit exist, although no antimony limits exist for foodstuffs so no legislation has been broken.

One of the more striking findings of the study was that highest antimony levels were measured in the juices with the highest carbohydrate content, with cordials containing the most carbohydrate, and most antimony. The scientists suggested that carbohydrate may aid extraction of antimony.

PET leaching?

The carbohydrate links supports the hypothesis that leaching from packaging could be to blame for high antimony levels and raises questions about the use of PET to package sugary juice drinks. But the scientists urged caution as elevated antimony levels were observed in juices packaged in PET bottles and Tetra Pak cartons, indicating that antimony could have been present before packaging.

The scientist wrote: “In conclusion, we have measured antimony in juices with up to 17-fold higher concentrations compared to previous reports on beverages in PET-bottles. Trends in the data indicate that the antimony has leached from the packing material; however, it cannot be excluded that the antimony was present prior to packing. Thus, further studies are warranted.”

Source: Journal of Environmental Monitoring
Elevated antimony concentrations in commercial juices
DOI: 10.1039/b926551a (published online 17 February 2010)
C Hansen, A Tsirigotaki, S.A Bak, S.A Pergantis, S Stürup, B. Gammelgaard and H.R. Hansen

Related news