"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

New technology reveals true variety of nanoplastics in bottled water

January 9, 2024 – Each liter of water in a plastic bottle can contain greater than 100,000 microscopic pieces of plastic, recent research shows. The vital finding suggests that the quantity of plastic many individuals devour just by drinking a bottle of water is ten times greater than previously thought.

The tiny plastic particles that come off bottles are called microplastics and nanoplastics. They have raised concerns about possible health effects, that are difficult to review partially since the plastic pieces are so small that they’re difficult to detect.

The Columbia University team has developed a brand new imaging technique that, based on their work, has “unprecedented sensitivity and specificity” for analyzing nanoplastics published Monday within the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Before, this was just a dark, unexplored area. Toxicity studies have merely guessed what's inside,” said researcher Beizhan Yan, PhD, an environmental chemist at Columbia Climate School's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in a statement opinion. “This opens a window through which we can look into a world that was previously inaccessible to us.”

The recent, laser-based technique for detecting microplastic and nanoplastic particles was used to investigate three popular brands of bottled water sold within the United States (the researchers didn’t release the names of the brands). Each liter of water from the bottles was found to contain between 110,000 and 370,000 plastic fragments, of which around 90% were nanoplastics and the remainder were larger microplastics.

The researchers searched for seven common forms of plastic. The commonest were polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, polymethyl methacrylate and polyethylene terephthalate or PET, the latter of which the bottles themselves are product of. Another plastic present in large quantities was a sort of nylon called polyamide. This is based on a summary of the study published by Columbia University, which found that the polyamide found may come from plastic filters that the water passes through before bottling.

The seven forms of plastics the researchers were searching for made up only 10% of the nanoparticles detected in bottled water, and the researchers haven’t determined what the opposite 90% are product of.

“If they are all nanoplastics, that means their numbers could be in the tens of millions per liter,” says the Columbia University paper’s abstract, which states that “they could be almost anything.” .

Next, the research team plans to investigate tap water.