Health professionals  are cutting back on bottled water after reports confirm that 1 liter of water  contain up to  1 million pieces of plastic.

A new study that used advanced laser technology found that bottled water contains massive amounts of tiny plastic particles, both microplastics and nanoplastics (less than 1 micrometer in size).

Researchers detected around 240,000 plastic particles per liter of bottled water on average. That is  10 to 100 times higher than previous estimates.

A full 90% of the detected particles are nanoplastics,. Nanoplastics are extremely small and difficult to identify. However, new scientific techniques are now able to detect these smaller nanoplastics.

Scientists surmise that these small plastic particles may originate from the plastic bottles themselves due to shedding plus  from the plastic components used in water treatment and filtration processes.

The health impacts of ingesting these plastic particles are still unknown because the research is so recent. However the  widespread presence of these micro and nanoplastics in bottled water and other beverages is cause for concern

These plastic particles in bottled water have potential health risks:

1. Smaller studies suggest that plastic particles can cross the blood-brain barrier and placenta showing that the body can absorb them. They can also be  detected in human urine,

These plastics contain chemicals like phthalates and BPA that are endocrine disruptors and have been linked to fertility issues, altered brain development, cancer, and heart complications if ingested.

The biggest problem is that plastic particles are not biodegradable. As a result, they accumulate in the body over time raising  the potential for longer term health hazards.

Highly processed foods and beverages are even more dangerous because they more likely than not contain higher levels of plastic contamination.

More research is needed to determine the reliability and validity of the data that is specific to its health risks.

Bottled Water Brands With Lower Plastic Contamination

The best brands showing the lowest microplastic contamination ( averaging only 30.0 and 63.1 plastic particles per liter) are San Pellegrino and Minalba.

A glass bottle of water from Gerolsteiner contained less plastic contamination (93 particles/L) compared to the Gerolsteiner plastic bottle water (1,410 particles/L). This shoes that plastic bottles are a major source of platic particles due to the particle shedding.

Bottled Water Brands With Higher Plastic Contamination


Nestle Pure Life and  plastic-bottled Gerolsteiner showed the highest plastic particle densities at 930 and 807 particles per liter respectively.

Major brands like Aquafina, Evian, and Nestle Pure Life had plastic contamination in 93% of samples tested across various countries.

It is clear from the research that no brands of bottled water whether plastic or glass are completely free of plastic particles.

It is also clear, when given a choice, you should choose clear glass bottles like San Pellegrino and Minalba.

3 Reasons Nanoplastics pose a potentially greater health risk compared to other environmental pollutants:

1. Higher Reactivity and Mobility

Nanoplastics are much smaller (1nm to 1μm) that allows  them to penetrate cells and tissues more easily.

Nanoplastics are more reactive and able to absorb pollutants like heavy metals  that increases their toxicity.

Nanoplastics are mobile and can reach into the  atmosphere and be transported over long distances.

2. Higher Abundance and Bioaccumulation

Nanoplastics are more abundant in the environment  due to the massive amounts of plastic waste.

They  can accumulate in organisms over time since they ate not readily biodegradable.

Humans can inhale these particles everyday so they are constantly building up in organisms and causing health issues. In fact, it is believed that humans can inhale up to 22 million nanoplastic particles per year! Just imagine what that can do to your body and brain!

That is why it is important to help fund organizations like The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch non-profit that has developed technologies to remove plastic from the ocean and rivers. Their goal is to remove up to 90% of floating plastic by 2040. and thjey have already removed millions of pounds of plastic, including but not limited to 220,000 pounds from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

4Ocean is another environmental organization who is dedicated to the removal  of plastic and trash from oceans, rivers, and coastlines around the world. As of 2022, they  removed over 25 million pounds of trash from the ocean by way of their cleanup efforts funded by product sales. You can buy and bracelet to support their efforts at 4Ocean.com

3. Potential Toxicity Mechanisms

Nanoplastics  cross blood-brain barrier and placenta that allows them to reach our  organs and tissues.

They can also induce oxidative stress, and trigger inflammatory responses inside cells.

Nanoplastics may disrupt also cause reproductive abnormalities, growth inhibition, and increased mortality in organisms.

The unique properties of nanoplastics like  high reactivity, mobility, abundance, bioaccumulation potential, and ability to cross biological barriers suggests they  pose a greater threat to human health than many other environmental pollutants.

In summary, there is a widespread presence of micro and nanoplastics in bottled water.  While there is strong scientific evidence on the specific human health consequences of ingesting these particles, more research is needed to understand exposure levels, toxicity, and potential long-term effects to better assess the risks.

However, do not hold your breath!

There are obvious valid concerns from businesses who rely  heavily on plastic packaging who are afraid of the  potential cost and associated with banning certain plastic products or even implementing stricter regulations.

  1. When switching to alternative packaging  like glass, aluminum or paper, there is a  significant cost to doing so- not only an increase manufacturing  costs but also transportation costs.
  2. If they are forced to redesign products and retool factories in order to manufacture new packaging, it  would in all likihood require a major capital investments that cuts into profits and does not make shareholders happy.
  3. Phasing out plastic could severely disrupt  supply chains and distribution networks. This leads to product shortages, delivery delays and other logistical challenges while new systems are implemented.
  4. There are currently no cost-effective, scalable alternatives that could match the performance of plastic packaging and thus costs could skyrocket

The bottom line is that businesses will not change what they are doing unless it is legislated or if they can find a better and cheaper alternative. Many businesses who rely heavily on plastic packaging will resist outright bans by citing the reasons that include higher costs, supply chain disruptions, lack of alternatives, public backlash, and no viable alternatives.

Insiders Health Tip:

We need to protect ourselves. By choosing healthier alternatives, using proper recycling and limiting the  use of plastic in our daily lives, we can make a dent in the world wide pollution and give our children a better healthier world.

Here are 5 tips for consumers to limit the amount of plastic they use:

  1. Carry reusable bags when shopping to avoid single-use plastic bags.
  2. Use reusable bottles and cups instead of buying beverages in plastic bottles or cups.  There are some environmental conscious  cafes who offer discounts for using your own mug.
  3. Buy food in bulk and use reusable containers or bags instead of packaged items. This avoids single use plastic packaging for things like grains, snacks, produce, bread, etc.
  4. Look for alternatives to plastic straws, utensils, and to-go containers. You can ask restaurants to use no plastic or bring your own reusable versions.
  5. Prioritize your shopping by looking for products sold in glass, aluminum or other non-plastic packaging instead of plastic bottles and containers whenever possible.

References:

https://lamont.columbia.edu/news/bottled-water-can-contain-hundreds-thousands-previously-uncounted-tiny-plastic-bits-study

https://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/blog/2024/1/10/study-finds-hundreds-of-thousands-of-plastic-particles-in-bottled-water

https://www.npr.org/2024/01/10/1223730333/bottled-water-plastic-microplastic-nanoplastic-study

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/roughly-240000-plastic-bits-are-in-a-liter-of-bottled-water-180983554/

https://www.4ocean.com/?pb=0

https://theoceancleanup.com/

https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/top-tips-reduce-your-plastic-footprint

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10311-022-01539-1

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9026096/

https://www.iberdrola.com/sustainability/how-to-reduce-plastic-use

51 Ways to reduce plastic use or completely eliminate it!

9 ways to reduce your plastic use

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2022.910094/full

Breathing Plastic: The Health Impacts of Invisible Plastics in the Air

 

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