You are what you drink: 250,000 plastic particles in bottled water

New research suggests the number of invisible pieces of plastic being consumed by the public is significantly higher than previously thought. 

water plastic bottle

Published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), this latest study by a team at Columbia University into the impact of plastic pollution on the human body shows there are hundreds of thousands of tiny particles per litre of bottled water. This is significantly more than past estimates, which put the figure at around 325. 

Alarmingly, the majority of the nanoparticles identified are understood to have the potential to penetrate human cells and enter major organs. The work focused on five samples from three leading water brands, with the lowest at 110,1000 per litre, the highest at 240,000. 90% of these are nanoparticles, less than one-seventieth the width of a human hair – so small a separate technology had to be invented to identify and measure them. 

It’s not a priority to push ahead with research into the impact on organisms. Scientists and marine biologists have long known plastic particles are being absorbed into the tissues of mammals, including people. However, this is the first time a clear picture has been presented of how bottled water is contributing to overall levels of plastic consumption.

“The news that bottled water contains hundreds of thousands of nanoplastics is profoundly worrying, but unfortunately unsurprising,’ said Jo Royle, CEO and Founder of Common Seas, and lead researcher on a 2022 study which identified plastic particles in human blood for the first time. 

‘Recent research revealed by Common Seas detected microplastics in human blood for the first time, yet plastic products still fill the shelves of every shop in the country. From our blood to our heart, to our brain, plastic has infiltrated every part of our body,’ she continued. ‘Governments globally must now act swiftly to ban harmful plastic products and unite behind a legally binding Global Plastics Treaty that recognises the threat plastic poses to human health.’

More on plastic pollution:

Prototypes for Humanity: Ideas to save the world at COP28

Plastic treaty talks show ‘zero ambition’ for protecting human health

Plastic-eating enzymes offer new hope for pollution solution

Image: Serenity Mitchell


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