A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that bottled water contains significantly higher levels of tiny plastic particles, known as nanoplastics, than previously estimated.
Using an innovative technique called Stimulated Raman Scattering (SRS) microscopy, scientists found an average of 240,000 detectable fragments of plastic per litre of water in popular brands. This count is 10-100 times higher than prior estimates, raising concerns about potential health impacts.
Nanoplastics, defined as particles below 1 micrometre, are so small that they can pass through the digestive system and lungs, entering the bloodstream directly and potentially affecting organs, including the brain and heart. Limited research exists on its ecological and human health impacts but some early studies have linked them to reproductive abnormalities and gastric issues.
The study examined three leading brands of bottled water, choosing not to disclose their names, as the researchers believe that all bottled water likely contains nanoplastics. The most common type of nanoplastic found was nylon, possibly originating from plastic filters used in water purification. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the material used to make bottles, was the second most prevalent nanoplastic type.
The researchers suggest that people concerned about nanoplastics in bottled water may consider alternatives like tap water. However, they do not advise against drinking bottled water when necessary, emphasising that the risk of dehydration may outweigh the potential impacts of nanoplastics exposure.