- PFAS are a group of artificial chemicals with known toxicity to the human body.
- PFAS are linked to health problems such as altered immune and thyroid function, insulin dysregulation, cancer, and more.
- Many sparkling waters have been found to contain trace levels of PFAS.
Refreshing, sugar-free, fun, fizzy—nothing hits better than sparkling water on a hot summer day. But not all sparkling waters are created equal. Some are contaminated with a group of artificial chemicals called PFAS that have been linked to health problems such as cancer and thyroid hormone disruption.
Before you crack open a can of bubbly, check out which brands contain chemical traces of PFAS, and which don’t.
What Are PFAS?
PFAS, or per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, are a group of synthetic, man-made chemicals used to create non-stick cookware like Teflon, and water-resistant clothing.
Because of their widespread use, they leech into water, dirt, and air—so can crop up in foods and beverages.
PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down over time. That means they can accumulate in the environment—and in your body.
Are PFAS Dangerous?
Exposure to PFAS has been linked to harmful effects in humans and animals (1). PFAS have been linked to altered immune and thyroid function, liver disease, lipid and insulin dysregulation, kidney disease, birth defects, and kidney, liver, and testicular cancer (2). While current findings are concerning, researchers note they warrant further study.
PFAS Are Linked to Low Testosterone
Interestingly, men might retain higher levels of PFAS in their system than women (3). A growing body of research suggests PFAS interfere with male reproductive hormones, increasing your risk of infertility (4).
One study from China, of 664 adult men, found exposure to PFAS was associated with reductions in semen quality, including a lower percentage of progressive sperm and DNA fragmentation (5). A follow-up study showed that seminal PFOA and PFOS (the two most common PFAS) levels were associated with a decrease in total and free testosterone (6).
Another, from the US, suggests PFA exposure can reduce semen quality, characterized by a lower overall percentage of sperm with coiled tails (7).
What Level of PFAS is Safe?
PFAS levels aren’t federally regulated in foods or beverages, yet. In 2016, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued voluntary guidance for PFAS in drinking water, saying combined amounts for PFOA and PFOS should be below 70 parts per trillion (ppt).
Many scientists and environmental groups believe these limits are too lax and suggest a lower limit of one ppt.
“The levels at which negative health effects could occur are much lower than previously understood when EPA issued the 2016 health advisories for PFOA and PFOS (70 ppt) including near zero for certain health effects,” notes an EPA June 2022 press release.
In March 2023, the EPA proposed the first nationwide restriction on PFAS in drinking water—limiting PFOA and PFOS to four ppt per chemical each. It’s not zero, but it’s a lot better than 70.
The proposal also moves to limit other known PFAS—like PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX chemicals—as a mixture, based on a hazard index designed to address the cumulative impact of chemicals.
The EPA expects to finalize the regulation by the end of the year, and claims once fully implemented “the rule will prevent thousands of deaths and reduce tens of thousands of serious PFAS-attributable illnesses.”
Does Sparkling Water Contain PFAS?
Because of their widespread use and persistence in the environment, PFAS are present at low levels in drinking water.
When put to the test, a few brands of drinking water were found to contain detectable levels of PFAS, according to a Consumer Reports study (8).
Interestingly, the chemicals were more common in sparkling waters than still. Researchers suspect this is tied to the carbonation process, or high levels of PFAS in the source water.
Sparkling Water Brands That Contain High Levels of PFAs
We can’t control the PFAS on grocery store shelves, but we can control the ones we choose to consume. None of these sparkling water brands exceeded the suggested PFA levels currently recommended by the EPA, but they did contain trace labels of PFAS above one ppt, according to the Consumer Reports study (8).
Which Sparkling Water Brands Are Lowest in PFAS?
If your heart just sank a little, don’t stress. There are still plenty of widely available sparkling water brands without the potential for trace levels of PFAS.
Healthiest Sparkling Water Brands
PFAS aren’t the only thing to look for in a sparkling water. The healthiest sparkling waters are low in added sugar and natural flavors—an umbrella term for processed ingredients that add flavor but have little to no nutritional value (9). If you prefer a touch of sweetness opt for Spindrift—which is flavored with real fruit—over cheaper options like LaCroix and Bubly, which rely on natural flavors.
If calories are your concern, soda water, sparkling water, seltzer, and mineral water all contain zero calories. However, mineral water is packed with additional minerals like sodium, calcium, magnesium, and zinc; and, could be a good way to boost mineral intake (10). When selecting a mineral water choose a low PFA option like San Pellegrino.
SHOP HEALTHY SPARKLING WATER
The Bottom Line
PFAS have been shown to have adverse effects on human health, but many brands of sparkling water contain trace amounts. To minimize your risk and avoid unwanted chemicals in your bubbly beverage, choose a sparkling water low in PFAS and natural flavors.