Bottled water contains between 110,000 and 370,000 plastic particles per liter, 100 times more than previously estimated, according to a new study.
Bad news for all bottle addicts: the water they contain contains up to 100 times more tiny plastic particles than previously estimated. The results of this study were published this Tuesday in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” (PNAS).
Innovative process reveals extent of nanoplastic pollution
For this study, the researchers used an innovative process, called “stimulated Raman scattering microscopy“, and using lasers.
They researched seven types of plastic and tested three brands of bottles marketed in the United States, without highlighting their names: “We believe that all bottled water contains nanoplastics, so highlighting some of them could be considered unfair.”confided to Agence Europe-Presse, Beizhan Yan, co-author of the study.
Nanoplastics have attracted increasing attention in recent years, and are present everywhere on the planet, from polar ice and soil to drinking water and food. Microplastics are less than 5,000 micrometers (or 5 millimeters), while nanoplastics are less than one micrometer. They are so small that they can enter the blood system and therefore even the organs, including the brain and the heart. They can invade individual cells and cross the placenta into the bodies of unborn babies.
Research into their consequences on ecosystems and human health is still limited, but some studies have already highlighted harmful effects, for example on the reproductive system.
240,000 detectable plastic fragments per liter of water
Quickly after the tests, the verdict came: 240,000 detectable plastic fragments were found in each liter of water.
In total, the bottled waters contained between “110,000 and 370,000 particles per liter“, 90% of which were nanoplastics (i.e. particles measuring between 0.001 to 0.1 µm, editor’s note). The rest was microplastics.
Among these micro particles, nylon was the most frequently found plastic. Ironically, Beizhan Yan said, this material likely came from plastic filters used to purify water before it is bottled.
As for polyethylene terephthalate (PET), used to make plastic bottles, it came in second place.
Other plastics frequently discovered by researchers? Polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride and polymethyl methacrylate, all used in the industrial environment.
For the rest, a (great) vagueness remains (the seven types of plastic sought by the researchers represent only around 10% of all the nanoparticles found in the samples, editor’s note).
In fact, it could be any material,”indicating the complex composition of particles within a seemingly simple water sample”warn the authors.
Vary the waters
Faced with these worrying results, researchers are encouraging populations to vary the water consumed.
“If people are worried about nanoplastics in bottled water, it’s reasonable to consider alternatives, like tap water“, assures Beizhan Yan, co-author of the study.
In the future, scientists want to test tap water, which also contains microplastics and drug residues.
A good enough reason to ignore these (bad) waters? No, obviously point out the researchers.
“We do not recommend not drinking bottled water when necessary, as the risk of dehydration may be greater than the potential consequences of exposure to nanoplastics“, conclut Beizhan Yan.