New Study: Plastic Bottled Water Contains 240,000 Nano Plastic Particles Per Liter

New Study: Plastic Bottled Water Contains 240,000 Nano Plastic Particles Per Liter

10 things to know about the new study on nanoplastics in bottled water and why it’s better to #refillit

The increasing presence of micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs) in our environment poses a significant health risk, particularly as particluars become smaller over time and are increasingly found in soil, food, and bottled water. A recent study from UC Irvine, marks a notable advancement in the field of nanoplastics analysis. By employing Stimulated Raman spectroscopy (SRS) microscopy, a powerful way to examine nanoplastics, researchers successfully enhanced the sensitivity of nanoplastic detection down to particles as small as 100 nm. This is a significant improvement over conventional microscopy, which struggles with the detection of such small particles. The method is characterized by its rapid imaging speed and high-throughput capability, making it an efficient tool for analyzing environmental samples.

The study made waves because it demonstrated microscopy capabilities through the analysis of plastic bottled water samples, where researchers estimated an alarming concentration of approximately 240,000 nanoplastic particles per liter of bottled water.

This study was also able to start multidimensional profiling of individual plastic particles. This profiling includes a detailed analysis of chemical composition, particle size, and shape. Notably, the researchers identified seven common plastic polymers in the bottled water samples and provided insights into the mass and shape diversity of these nanoplastics.

While it may seem straightforward, this study is far-reaching as it begins to fill the gap of knowledge about current nanoplastic analysis techniques and also opens new avenues for environmental monitoring and assessing public health risks associated with nanoplastic pollution. This study sets a new benchmark in the field of environmental science, offering a sensitive tool for unraveling the complex nature of nanoplastic contamination in our ecosystems. Here are 10 takeaways from this study by UC Irvine researchers. 

10 highlights to know from new plastic bottled water study

  1. High concentration of nanoplastic in bottled water

An average of 240,000 nanoplastic particles per liter were found in bottled water, posing a direct ingestion risk.

  1. The top plastic chemical composition 

The study identified various plastic polymers in bottled water, including polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polystyrene (PS). PET is the primary plastic that is used for bottled water, indicating a potential leache into the water consumed from these bottles. 

  1. The majority percentage of plastic in bottled water is nano plastic

Approximately 90% of all plastic particles in the tested bottled water were nanoplastics.

  1. Seven different plastic chemical compositions were found

The study identified seven common plastic polymers in bottled water, including (A) polyamide, (B) polypropylene, (C) polyethylene, (D) polymethyl methacrylate, (E) polyvinyl chloride, (F) polystyrene, and (G) polyethylene terephthalate. 

  1. Potential Health Implications

These plastics have varying harmful impacts on human and pet health. You can learn more about studies on each plastic chemistry from the Center for Environmental International Law. The high prevalence of nanoplastics raises concerns about their potential to enter biological systems and cause toxicity.

  1. Methodological advancements

The study's methodology sets a new standard for environmental nanoplastics research. Previously, researchers struggled to examine plastic particles on a nano level. Therefore, most studies you've seen on the subject examine and reference microplastics. Now that researchers can examine plastics at the nano level, we will begin to see more research referencing this size of plastic. 

  1. Potential for neurological impact

The rapid accumulation of nanoplastics in the brain tissue highlights the potential for cognitive impairment and other neurological disorders. This study was able to identify particles as small as 100 nanometers (μm), but smaller particles could have been present that were not detected. 

  1. Modeling particle-bilayer interactions

Molecular dynamics simulations revealed how nanoplastics interact with cellular membranes, providing insights into their transport mechanisms through the body. These are microscopic plastic particles, typically less than a micron in size. Due to their tiny size, they can potentially interact with biological systems in ways that larger plastic particles cannot.

  1. Critical particle size for BBB crossing

Particles less than 0.5 μm in diameter showed potential for crossing lipid bilayers, a crucial size threshold for brain exposure. There's a growing concern about the presence of ultrafine particles, including nanoplastics, in the environment and their potential to cause harm if they cross into sensitive areas like the brain.

  1. Refill with filtered tap water

The research also examined tap water and found it to be the lowest source of micro and nano plastic particles. One solution is to filter your home water and use a refillable bottle, like PATH. 

Oftentimes, new research and discovery lead to more questions. Given the widespread use of plastics and their ability to break down into smaller and smaller pieces, more research is required to understand the long-term health implications of nanoplastic exposure fully.

This study underscores the urgent need to understand the impact of nanoplastic pollution on human health, particularly considering its presence in common consumables like bottled water housed in PET plastic bottles. The ability of nanoplastics to potentially cross critical barriers such as the BBB highlights the importance of developing further studies and subsequent policies and practices to mitigate these human health risks.

As always, our goal at PATH is to keep you informed and share education on important topics like this one.


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