Bottled water also bottles thousands of plastic particles, new study reveals

Tourists fill plastic bottles with water from a public fountain at the Sforzesco Castle, in Milan, Italy, June 25, 2022. A new study found the average liter of bottled water has nearly a quarter million invisible pieces of nanoplastics, microscopic plastic pieces, detected and categorized for the first time by a microscope.

When drinking from a plastic water bottle, you’re drinking more than just water, a new study shows — you’re also consuming thousands of “nanoplastics.”

A paper published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that a liter of water in plastic water bottles contains, on average, 240,000 microplastics, or microscopic plastic particles.

“This is orders of magnitude more than the microplastic abundance reported previously in bottled water,” the study reads.

By analyzing samples from common plastic water bottle brands, scientists at Columbia and Rutgers universities found that a liter of water can contain anywhere from 110,000 to 400,000 plastic particles, the majority of which are nanoplastics.

What are nanoplastics?

While microplastic pieces can range from 1 micrometer in size to half a centimeter in length, nanoplastics are even smaller, less than a micron in size, according to The Washington Post. For context, a micron is about one-eightieth the width of a human hair.

Are nanoplastics harmful?

The science isn’t settled on whether or not consuming nanoplastics is dangerous for human health.

“We don’t know if it’s dangerous or how dangerous,” study co-author Phoebe Stapleton, a toxicologist at Rutgers, told The Associated Press “We do know that they are getting into the tissues (of mammals, including people) … and the current research is looking at what they’re doing in the cells.”

While it’s unclear if nanoplastics themselves are harmful to human health, some researchers believe that nanoplastics could carry chemical additives that could be dangerous.

“The danger of the plastics themselves is still an unanswered question. For me, the additives are the most concerning,” Jason Somarelli, a Duke University professor of medicine, told The Associated Press. “We and others have shown that these nanoplastics can be internalized into cells and we know that nanoplastics carry all kinds of chemical additives that could cause cell stress, DNA damage and change metabolism or cell function.”