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Scientists discover around a quarter of a million invisible nanoplastic particles in a liter of bottled water

The average liter of bottled water contains nearly a quarter of a million invisible pieces of tiny nanoplastics, detected and categorized for the first time by a microscope using two lasers.

Scientists have long thought there were lots of these microscopic pieces of plastic, but until researchers at Columbia and Rutgers universities did their calculations, they never knew how many or what type. Examining five samples from each of three common bottled water brands, researchers found that particle levels ranged between 110,000 and 400,000 per liter, with an average of about 240,000, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

These are particles whose size is less than a micron. There are 25,400 microns – also called micrometers because it’s one millionth of a meter – in an inch. A human hair is approximately 83 microns wide.

Previous studies have looked at slightly larger microplastics, ranging from 5 visible millimeters, or less than a quarter of an inch, to one micron. According to the study, approximately 10 to 100 times more nanoplastics than microplastics were found in bottled water.

Much of the plastic appears to come from the bottle itself and the reverse osmosis membrane filter used to keep other contaminants out, said the study’s lead author, Naixin Qian, a physical chemist. Columbia. She didn’t want to reveal the three brands because researchers want more samples before selecting a brand and want to study more brands. Still, she said they were common and purchased at a WalMart.

Researchers still cannot answer the big question: are these pieces of nanoplastic harmful to health?

“This is currently under review. We don’t know if it’s dangerous or how dangerous,” said Phoebe Stapleton, study co-author and toxicologist at Rutgers. “We know they get into tissues (of mammals, including humans)…and current research is looking at what they do in cells.”

The International Bottled Water Association said in a statement: “There is currently both a lack of standardized (measurement) methods and no scientific consensus on the potential health impacts of nano- and microplastic particles. Therefore, media reports about these particles in drinking water only unnecessarily frighten consumers.

The American Chemistry Council, which represents plastics manufacturers, declined to immediately comment.

The world is “burdened under the weight of plastic pollution, with more than 430 million tonnes of plastic produced each year” and microplastics present in oceans, food and drinking water, some of which comes from clothing and filters of cigarettes, according to the United Nations. United Nations Environment Program. Efforts toward a global plastics treaty continue after negotiations stalled in November.

All four co-authors interviewed said they were reducing their bottled water consumption after conducting the study.

Wei Min, the physical chemist from Colombia who pioneered dual-laser microscope technology, said he had cut his bottled water consumption in half. Stapleton said she now relies more on filtered water at her home in New Jersey.

But study co-author Beizhan Yan, an environmental chemist from Colombia who increased his tap water consumption, pointed out that the filters themselves can be a problem due to the introduction of plastics.

“There’s just no such thing as winning,” Stapleton said.

A new study has found that the average liter of bottled water contains almost a quarter of a million invisible pieces of nanoplastics, detected and classified for the first time under a microscope.  (AP Photo/Mary Conlon)
Naixin Qian, a physical chemist from Colombia, zooms in on an image of microscopic pieces of plastic, appearing as bright red dots in New York on Monday.Mary Conlon / AP

Outside experts, who praised the study, agreed that there is general unease about the dangers of fine plastic particles, but it is too early to be sure.

“The danger of plastics themselves remains an unanswered question. To me, the additives are the most concerning,” said Jason Somarelli, a professor of medicine at Duke University and director of the Comparative Oncology Group, who was not involved in the research. “We and others have shown that these nanoplastics can be internalized into cells and we know that nanoplastics contain all kinds of chemical additives that could cause cellular stress, DNA damage and alter metabolism or function cellular.”

Somarelli said his own work, not yet published, found more than 100 “known cancer-causing chemicals in these plastics.”

What’s worrying, said Zoie Diana, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Toronto, is that “small particles can appear in different organs and cross membranes that they are not supposed to cross, like the blood-blood barrier.” encephalic”.

Diana, who was not part of the study, said the new tool the researchers used makes it an exciting development in the study of plastics in the environment and in the body.

About 15 years ago, Min invented dual-laser microscope technology that identifies specific compounds based on their chemical properties and how they resonate when exposed to lasers. Yan and Qian told him about using this technique to find and identify plastics that are too small for researchers using established methods.

Kara Lavender Law, an oceanographer at the Sea Education Association, said “this work may be an important step forward in detecting nanoplastics,” but she said she would like to see other analytical chemists replicate the technique and results.

Denise Hardesty, an Australian government oceanographer who studies plastic waste, said context was needed. The total weight of the nanoplastic found is “roughly equivalent to the weight of a single penny in the volume of two Olympic swimming pools.”

Hardesty is less concerned than others about nanoplastics in bottled water, noting that “I have the privilege of living in a place where I have access to ‘clean’ tap water and I don’t I don’t need to buy drinking water in single-use containers.

Yan said he is starting to study other municipal water supplies in Boston, St. Louis, Los Angeles and elsewhere to determine how much plastic is in tap water. Previous studies on microplastics and some early tests indicate that there may be fewer nanoplastics in tap water than in bottled water.

Even with unknowns about human health, Yan said he has one recommendation for those worried: use reusable bottles instead of single-use plastics.

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Jeoffro René

I photograph general events and conferences and publish and report on these events at the European level.
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