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Nanoplastics Found in Bottled Water Raise Concerns Over Human Health

January 9, 2024

Photo Credit: The Hill


In a groundbreaking study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers from Columbia University reveal that the average bottle of water contains nearly a quarter million fragments of “nanoplastics.” These particles, thousands of times smaller than microplastics, pose a potential threat by crossing into human cells, interfering with cellular functions.

The study, utilizing innovative laser imaging, identified a range of plastics, with polyethylene terephthalate (PET) being the most prevalent. Surprisingly, potentially harmful nanoplastics like nylon, polystyrene (Styrofoam), and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) were also discovered, indicating unknown sources of environmental contamination.

Notably, the study raises concerns about the health risks, especially for vulnerable populations such as the very young and the elderly. Nanoplastics, capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier, may lead to neural degeneration, particularly in older individuals. Additionally, they can pass through the placenta, potentially affecting fetal development.

The findings also shed light on the potential impacts on the digestive system. PET, a common plastic in bottles, interferes with key microbial communities in the human gut, fostering harmful bacteria while suppressing beneficial ones. Studies in mice suggest that both micro- and nanoplastics lead to cell death in the intestine lining and increased inflammation, with potential implications for heart health.

Despite alarming laboratory findings, the actual risks of nanoplastics remain uncertain, given the lack of reliable technology to identify these particles in the environment. However, the Columbia University team’s use of Raman scattering, a novel method, offers a promising approach to identifying specific nanoplastics in soils, air, and human tissue.

As the baton passes to toxicologists to determine the health impacts of the nanoplastics levels found in bottled water, the study underscores the urgent need for further research and regulatory measures to address this emerging threat to human health.


Credit: TheHill

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