Artificial Sweeteners Stay in the Water Supply
By Michael Joliffe
A new study investigating the ability of water treatment facilities to remove artificial sweeteners from municipal water supplies has found that significant amounts remain despite the implementation of high-tech industrial water purification.
Researchers from the Water Technology Centre in Karlsruhe, Germany examined levels of seven common sweeteners – acesulfame, saccharin, aspartame, cyclamate (currently banned in the US and Canada), sucralose, neotame and NHDC – using a new method that enables detection of the substances simultaneously. Analysis of the water samples revealed that up to 80% and 59% of sucralose and acesulfame remained respectively, despite treatment and advanced filtration. Acesulfame was found to be the most treatment resistant sweetener, with several hundred nanograms of saccharin and cyclamate also remaining.
“The persistence of some artificial sweeteners during soil aquifer treatment was demonstrated and confirmed their environmental relevance”, wrote the scientific team in the journal Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, before expressing concern that “the occurrence of such sweeteners in the aquatic environment may become an issue for consumers.” 
The study authors cited the lack of research on the levels of artificial sweeteners in water as being a motivating factor behind their investigation. One previous study on sucralose, conducted by scientists from the Swedish Environmental Research Institute, also found industrial water treatment to be of limited efficacy in removing the sweetener from the municipal water supply with significant sucralose concentrations being found in each sample analyzed and at each of twenty-five treatment faculties investigated throughout Sweden. Writing in a report entitled ‘Sucralose in surface waters and STP Samples’, the Scandinavian team expressed particular anxiety that water levels may continue to build substantially over a long period of time due to the extremely slow rate at which sucralose breaks down in the environment.