In a single liter of bottled water, researchers found over 25,000 nanoplastic particles


New research indicates that just one liter of bottled water contains over 25,000 nanoplastic pieces

For the first time, a microscope fitted with two lasers was able to detect and categorize the quarter million nanoplastic particles that were discovered in one liter of bottled water.

Researchers from Columbia and Rutgers found the numbers of these microscopic plastic particles, confirming what scientists had assumed for a long time: they existed. According to a publication in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers tested five samples of three well-known bottled water brands and found that the particle counts ranged from 110,000 to 400,000 per liter, with an average of around 240,000.

Submicron particles are those with a size less than one micron. The micron, which is one inch equals 25,400 microns and is also called a micrometer because of its millionth of a meter size. Human hairs typically measure 83 microns in width.

Previous studies have concentrated on smaller microplastics, those with a size between one micron and five millimeters (below a quarter of an inch). Nanoplastics were found in bottled water at a rate ten to one hundred times higher than microplastics.

The study’s principal author, Naixin Qian, a physical chemist from Columbia University, found that most of the plastic came from the bottle and the reverse osmosis membrane filter, which is designed to remove other contaminants. She has already said that she would not reveal the identities of the three brands in issue since researchers are keen to examine several brands before choosing one. What she did reveal was that she had bought them at Walmart and that they were common.

Would swallowing those nanoplastic fragments be harmful to your health? That is the most pressing problem that scientists have not yet found a solution for.

Right now, it is being looked at. Phoebe Stapleton, a toxicologist from Rutgers University and a co-author of the paper, said that the amount of hazard and its potential harm remain unclear. Investigations into their cellular actions are continuing since “it is evident that they are entering the tissues of mammals, including humans…”

The International Bottled Water Association said that there is currently no shortage of established methods for monitoring or a consensus among scientists about the potential health effects of nano- and microplastic particles. The media’s depiction of waterborne microbes, then, does nothing except make people afraid of water.

The American Chemistry Council, a trade organization for the plastics sector, was hesitant to provide an immediate response.

Oceans, food, and drinking water across the world have been found to contain microplastics, and the planet is “is drowning under the weight of plastic pollution,” according to the UN Environment Programme. Each year, over 430 million tons of plastic are created. Cigarette filters and garments are two potential sources of these microplastics. The drive for a global plastics deal resumes after negotiations halted in November.

All four of the study’s co-authors acknowledged that after the interviews, they used less bottled water.

An early user of twin laser microscope technology, physical scientist Wei Min of Columbia University has reduced his use of bottled water by half. According to her, Stapleton now prefers to drink filtered water at his New Jersey residence.

Beizhan Yan, an environmental scientist from Columbia University and one of the study’s co-authors, increased his usage of tap water and raised the concern that filters, being made of plastic, would add to pollution.

Defeat is certain, Stapleton said.

Outside experts who praised the study agreed that there is widespread fear about the hazards of tiny plastic particles, even if it is too soon to say for sure.

We still have no idea of the full extent of plastics’ dangers. Medical professor and director of Duke University’s comparative cancer department Jason Somarelli voiced concern about the modifications despite not participating in the research. “Our research and that of others has demonstrated that cells are capable of absorbing nanoplastics, and it is well-known that these particles contain a wide variety of chemical additives that have the potential to alter cellular metabolism, DNA damage, and stress levels.”

Approximately one hundred “known cancer-causing chemicals in these plastics,” according per Somarelli’s unpublished study.

Concerningly, “small particles can appear in different organs and may cross membranes that they aren’t meant to cross, such as the blood-brain barrier,” as stated by Zoie Diana, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Toronto.

Diana, who was not a part of the study, called the researchers’ use of a new tool an encouraging development in our knowledge of the ways plastics affect living things and the human body.

Min invented the dual laser microscope method around fifteen years ago; it uses the compounds’ chemical properties and the way they vibrate when lit by the lasers to identify distinct compounds. During their conversation, Yan and Qian brought up the idea of using that technology to identify and catalogue polymers that, because of their minuscule size, have so far evaded scientists using traditional methods.

“The work can be an important advance in the detection of nanoplastics,” said Kara Lavender Law, an oceanographer with the Sea Education Association! Nevertheless, Law emphasized her desire for other analytical chemists to replicate the methodology and results.

Background knowledge is crucial, according to Denise Hardesty, an Australian government oceanographer who studies plastic waste. “Roughly equivalent to the weight of a single penny in the volume of two Olympic-sized swimming pools” is the overall weight of the nanoplastic that we found.

When asked about the presence of nanoplastics in bottled water, Hardesty said, “I’m privileged to live in a place where I have access to ‘clean’ tap water and I don’t have to buy drinking water in single use containers,” therefore she feels less concern than others.

Yan has stated his intention to start looking at the amounts of plastics in the municipal water systems of other cities, such as Boston, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and others. It is possible that municipal water sources contain less nanoplastic than bottled water, according to some early tests and previous studies on microplastics.

Despite the lack of clarity on the precise impacts on human health, Yan argues that concerned people should choose for reusable bottles instead of single-use plastics.

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