There is more microplastic contained in plastic bottles of water than previously known, according to new research released Monday.
Researchers from Columbia University and Rutgers University said a liter of water contained nearly 240,000 detectable plastic fragments, which is at least 10 times more than previous estimates.
Researchers say that these nanoplastics are so small, they can pass through the intestines and lungs directly into the bloodstream and travel to organs, including the heart and brain. Researchers expressed concern that high levels of nanoplastics in water could cause adverse health effects.
Researchers mentioned, however, that the full extent of health effects is unknown and require further study.
“Previously, this was just a dark area, uncharted. Toxicity studies were just guessing what’s in there,” study coauthor Beizhan Yan, an environmental chemist at Columbia University, said in a press release. “This opens a window where we can look into a world that was not exposed to us before.”
Researchers say nanoplastics are particles below 1 micrometer and measured in billionths of a meter. These fragments are smaller than microplastics.
It is also believed that these nanoplastics could be in other bottled products, including sports drinks, sodas and condiments.
“There is a huge world of nanoplastics to be studied,” said study co-author Wei Min. "It’s not size that matters. It’s the numbers, because the smaller things are, the more easily they can get inside us.”
There have been previous studies that show these bits can also mix in with food when microwaved. A 2023 University of Nebraska study found that microwaving plastic baby food containers can release plastic particles.
“It is really important to know how many micro- and nanoplastics we are taking in,” said Kazi Albab Hussain, the Nebraska study’s lead author. “When we eat specific foods, we are generally informed or have an idea about their caloric content, sugar levels, other nutrients. I believe it’s equally important that we are aware of the number of plastic particles present in our food."
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