A study conducted by researchers at Columbia and Rutgers universities has discovered that the average liter of bottled water contains nearly a quarter million invisible nanoplastics. This groundbreaking research, made possible by a dual laser microscope, provides unprecedented insights into the extent of nanoplastic contamination in common bottled water brands.
Discoveries and Findings:
The study analyzed five samples each from three popular bottled water brands. Researchers found that the levels of nanoplastics ranged from 110,000 to 400,000 particles per liter, with an average of approximately 240,000 particles. These nanoplastics are less than a micron in size, which is 25,400 times smaller than an inch and significantly smaller than the visible microplastics previously studied.
Comparison to Microplastics:
The study also revealed that there are 10 to 100 times more nanoplastics than microplastics in bottled water. This finding highlights the prevalence and magnitude of nanoplastic contamination, raising concerns about their potential impact on human health.
Source of Nanoplastics:
The researchers identified that a significant portion of the nanoplastics originates from the plastic bottles themselves and the reverse osmosis membrane filters used to remove other contaminants. While the study did not disclose the specific brands, the researchers indicated that they were commonly available and purchased from Walmart.
Health Implications and Further Research:
Although the study did not determine the potential health risks associated with nanoplastics, it highlighted that these particles can accumulate in mammalian tissues, including humans. Current research is underway to investigate their effects on cellular function and potential dangers. The International Bottled Water Association emphasized that standardized measuring methods and scientific consensus are needed to evaluate the health impacts of nano- and microplastic particles.
Environmental Impact and Recommended Actions:
Global plastic pollution has reached alarming levels, with over 430 million tonnes of plastic produced annually. Microplastics, including nanoplastics, contaminate oceans, food, and drinking water, originating from sources such as clothing and cigarette filters. As a precautionary measure, the study's authors recommended reducing the consumption of single-use plastic bottles and opting for reusable alternatives.
The unprecedented detection and categorization of nearly a quarter million nanoplastics per liter in bottled water highlight the urgent need for further research and a comprehensive understanding of their health and environmental impacts. This study serves as a wake-up call to address the growing concern surrounding plastic pollution and advocate for sustainable alternatives.