Put down that Dasani bottle and take a gander at some horrible news: there are way more tiny plastic particles in bottled water than previously thought, likely meaning untold deleterious impacts on the human body and our environment.
Researchers from Columbia and Rutgers came out with a new study in the science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that detailed how they developed a new optical technique to detect plastics in water "with unprecedented sensitivity and specificity."
By using this new technique, they examined and analyzed store-bought water in plastic bottles, leading to the upsetting discovery that one liter of bottled water had an average number of 240,000 teeny tiny plastic bits swimming in it. That's a lot more plastic than what a previous 2018 study had suggested, which had found an average of 10.4 plastic particles in a liter of water.
The new study found that 10 percent of the plastic particles in water were microplastics — measuring from five millimeters to one micrometer — but most insidiously, 90 percent were nanoplastics. That means they're even smaller, so tiny that they require high powered, advanced microscopes to even observe.
Microplastics are pretty bad in of themselves — they've become quite prevalent in our environment and inside our bodies — but nanoplastics pose a special danger because they're so much smaller, the research team says.
The health implications are enormous because nanoplastics can worm their way into our cells, organs, and even cross the placenta barrier to get to unborn fetuses, leaving behind a residue of nasty chemicals, CNN reports, which can screw up with important bodily functions.
"They suggest widespread human exposures to minuscule plastic particles posing largely unstudied risks," research director of the nonprofit Healthy Babies, Bright Futures Jane Houlihan told CNN of the study. "Infants and young children may face the greatest risks, as their developing brains and bodies are often more vulnerable to impacts from toxic exposures."
So what's to do? A good first step would be ditching plastic water bottles all together and getting yourself a stainless steel water bottle or one made of glass — though even glass can carry dangerous chemicals.
More on microplastics: Microplastics Inside Clouds May Be Changing Global Weather, Scientists Say
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