In a groundbreaking revelation, scientists at Columbia and Rutgers universities have, for the first time, detected and categorized nearly a quarter million invisible nanoplastics in the average liter of bottled water. Using a microscope equipped with dual lasers, researchers examined samples from three common bottled water brands, uncovering particle levels ranging from 110,000 to 400,000 per liter, with an average of approximately 240,000, as reported in a study published in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
These nanoplastics are minuscule, measuring less than a micron in size, with 25,400 microns in an inch. This finding surpasses previous studies that focused on slightly larger microplastics, ranging from visible 5 millimeters to one micron. The study revealed the presence of 10 to 100 times more nanoplastics than the previously studied microplastics in bottled water.
The investigation raises concerns about the potential sources of these nanoplastics, with lead author Naixin Qian, a Columbia physical chemist, pointing to the bottle material itself and the reverse osmosis membrane filter used to exclude contaminants. While the study did not disclose the names of the three brands analyzed, Qian mentioned they were common and purchased at Walmart. However, researchers plan to broaden their sample pool before pinpointing specific brands.
The crucial question remains unanswered: Are these nanoplastic particles detrimental to human health?
Phoebe Stapleton, a toxicologist at Rutgers and co-author of the study, highlighted the ongoing examination of the potential health risks. “That’s currently under review. We don’t know if it’s dangerous or how dangerous,” she said. “We do know that they are getting into the tissues (of mammals, including people) … and the current research is looking at what they’re doing in the cells.”
As concerns about plastic pollution escalate, this research underscores the need for further investigation into the potential health implications of nanoplastics in bottled water, raising awareness about the unseen environmental and health challenges posed by these microscopic particles.