TechBottled water poses danger. Nanoplastics infiltrating our bodies, says study

Bottled water poses danger. Nanoplastics infiltrating our bodies, says study

bottle of water
bottle of water
Images source: © Getty Images | RUN INC
7:43 PM EST, January 9, 2024

The bottled water sold in stores might contain 10 to 100 times more plastic particles than previously estimated. According to CNN, the nanoparticles of plastic found in bottled water could be so minuscule that they remain invisible under a microscope.

The diameter of nanoplastics is about one-thousandth the width of a human hair. They are so tiny they can travel through tissues within the gastrointestinal tract or lungs and into the bloodstream, distributing potentially harmful synthetic substances throughout the body.

A study by scientists from Columbia University, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and cited by CNN journalists, revealed that, on average, a liter of bottled water contains 240,000 plastic particles from seven types of plastic, over a quarter gallon. A staggering 90% of these were identified as nanoplastics, with the remainder classified as microplastics.

This new research emphasizes the benefit of drinking tap water (if of adequate quality) or water from glass or stainless-steel containers. This can limit the impact of microplastics on the human body and also applies to other food items packaged in plastic.

"In much the same way we continually shed skin cells, plastics also continually breaks down into small pieces upon handling, like when opening a plastic container for salad, or cheese wrapped in plastic bought from a store," explains Sherri Mason, Director of Sustainable Development at Penn State Behrend in Erie, Pennsylvania. Although not a part of this research, she co-authored a study in 2018 that found micro and nanoplastics were present in 93% of bottled water samples analyzed from 11 different brands in nine countries.

Health Risks Posed by Plastic Particles

Novel research techniques increase our understanding of the risks associated with plastic particles. The studies indicate that plastic particles represent the biggest threat to infants and young children, whose developing brains and bodies are typically more susceptible to exposure to toxic substances.

Because of their minuscule size, nanoplastics can infiltrate individual cells and tissues within our organs. Here, they could interfere with cellular processes and deposit harmful substances, such as bisphenols, phthalates, flame retardants, and polyfluorinated substances, heavy metals, and other compounds that can disrupt the endocrine system.

"All these chemicals factor into the production of plastic. So, if plastic enters our bodies, it brings these chemicals along. And since our body temperature is higher than the outside environment, these chemicals will migrate from the plastic and infiltrate our bodies," Mason elaborates.

Mason further explains that "these chemicals can make their way to the liver, kidneys, and brain, and can even cross the placental barrier to an unborn child."

Experiments conducted on pregnant mice have shown that chemical substances from plastics can be found in the fetus's heart, brain, liver, kidneys, and lungs just 24 hours after the pregnant mouse swallows or inhales plastic particles.

Understanding Microplastic

The term 'microplastic' is used to refer to fragments of polymers varying in size from a micrometer to just over 0.19 inches. The smaller particles, which fall into the billionths of a meter range, are known as 'nanoplastics'.

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