Microplastics pollute beaches around the globe and have been detected in marine organisms. Now, recent findings suggest they’re even more abundant in bottled drinking water than previously thought.
A study led by researchers from Columbia University and Rutgers University revealed that there are approximately 240,000 plastic fragments in an average liter of bottled water. This discovery highlighted concentrations 10 to 100 times higher than earlier estimates.
Around 90% of the plastic particles identified were nanoplastics; meanwhile, microplastics accounted for the remaining 10%. Microplastics measure between 5 millimeters and 1 micrometer in size, whereas nanoplastics are defined as less than 1 micrometer.
To put this into perspective, the thickness of human hair is roughly 70 micrometers.
Microplastics have been detected in various human-related environments, including in our lungs, feces, and blood.
A study published in 2018 also revealed that there are typically 325 microplastic pieces per liter in bottled water.
According to Wei Min, the study’s co-author and a chemistry professor at Columbia University, nanoplastics actually have the potential to be more harmful inside the human body despite their smaller size.
“The smaller it goes, the easier for it to be misidentified as the natural component of the cell,” Min said.
For the study, the research team employed a method known as stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscopy, which uses two lasers to detect the particles. Afterward, they utilized machine learning algorithms to classify these particles.