Health conscious people generally avoid tap water. They drink bottled water or mineral water. Drinking bottled water may avoid risks such as contamination, but there are other health risks that can cause greater harm in the long run.
A new study has revealed that one liter of bottled water contains an average of 240,000 plastic particles. Researchers say many of the plastic particles have not been identified before. The health concerns associated with plastic pollution are being dramatically overlooked. In a report of the Indian media NDTV, various information about this research has emerged.
The research report was published on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This study is the first to test the presence of nanoplastics in bottled water. Nanoplastic particles are less than one micrometer in length, which is about 70th the width of a human hair.
According to the study, bottled water may contain up to 100 times more plastic particles than previously estimated, as previous studies only looked at microplastics, or plastic particles 1 to 5,000 micrometers in length.
Nanoplastics are more harmful to human health than microplastics. Because nanoplastics can enter human cells, mix with blood and affect body organs. Nanoplastics can also enter the body of the unborn child. Scientists have long suspected the presence of nanoplastics in bottled water. But could not prove it due to lack of technology to detect individual nanoparticles.
To meet this challenge, researchers developed a new microscopic method. They programmed a data-driven algorithm and analyzed about 25 one-liter bottles of water from three popular US brands using these two methods. In each bottle, researchers found between 100,000 and 370,000 tiny plastic particles. 90 percent of these were nanoplastics.
Nijin Qian, lead author of the study and a chemistry student at Columbia University, said the research will serve as a powerful tool to address challenges in nanoplastic analysis. This research will help address the knowledge gap on plastic pollution at the nano level.
Beizhan Yan, a co-author of the research report and an environmental chemist at Columbia University, said there was no information on this before. Toxicology studies used to only speculate about what substances might contain. Through this research, such a door of knowledge will be opened which was not revealed to us before.
The researchers analyzed seven types of plastic. These include polyethylene terephthalate (PET), from which most water bottles are made, and polyamide, which is used in water purification filters before bottling. In addition, scientists have discovered many nanoparticles in water that were not known before. If these are also nanoplastics, then the presence of plastic in bottled water will prove to be much more.
More than 450 million tons of plastic are produced worldwide each year, most of which ends up in landfills. A large proportion of plastic does not degrade naturally. But with time, this plastic turns into tiny particles. Small plastic particles are also shed during use of various products containing plastic, including synthetic fabrics.
Although there is plastic pollution in all parts of the world, scientists are particularly interested in bottled water because plastic particles can enter the human body through it. According to a research report published in 2022, bottled water has a higher concentration of microplastics than tap water. According to a research paper published in 2021, tiny plastic particles can mix in water just by opening and closing the plastic cap of the bottle.
The co-authors of the latest study say they will continue their research with bottled water. They also plan to study the presence of nanoplastics in tap water and Antarctic ice samples.
“There’s a huge world of nanoplastics to explore,” said Wei Min, a biophysicist at Columbia University and co-author of the study. The smaller the substance, the easier it is to enter our body.