Bottled water may seem like a convenient and healthy choice for many people, but a new study has revealed that it contains up to 100 times more plastic particles than previously estimated. These tiny pieces of plastic, known as nanoplastics, are invisible to the naked eye, but they could pose serious risks to human health and the environment.
Nanoplastics are plastic fragments that are smaller than 100 nanometers, or about one-thousandth of the width of a human hair. They can be formed by the degradation of larger plastic pieces, or by the intentional production of nanosized materials for various applications.
Bottled water can be contaminated with nanoplastics during the production, packaging, or transportation process. Plastic bottles, caps, labels, and seals can leach nanoplastics into the water, especially when exposed to heat, light, or mechanical stress. Moreover, the water itself may contain nanoplastics from the source, such as groundwater, springs, or rivers.
Why are nanoplastics harmful to human health and the environment?
Nanoplastics can be ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin by humans and other organisms. Due to their small size, they can bypass the natural barriers of the body and reach the bloodstream, organs, and tissues. There, they can cause inflammation, oxidative stress, DNA damage, and cellular dysfunction. Nanoplastics can also carry toxic chemicals, such as additives, dyes, or pollutants, that can leach out and affect the biological functions of the host.
Nanoplastics can also accumulate in the environment, especially in aquatic ecosystems, where they can be eaten by fish, plankton, and other marine animals. This can lead to bioaccumulation and biomagnification of nanoplastics and their associated toxins along the food chain, potentially affecting the health and survival of wildlife and humans.
Nanoplastics can also contribute to climate change, as they are derived from fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases when they degrade. Furthermore, they can interfere with the natural cycles of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus, which are essential for life on Earth.
How can we reduce nanoplastic pollution from bottled water?
The best way to reduce nanoplastic pollution from bottled water is to avoid using bottled water altogether, and opt for tap water instead. Tap water is cheaper, safer, and more environmentally friendly than bottled water, as it undergoes rigorous testing and treatment, and does not generate plastic waste. Tap water can also be filtered, boiled, or disinfected if needed, to improve its quality and taste.
If bottled water is unavoidable, such as in emergency situations or in areas with poor water quality, some measures can be taken to minimize the exposure to nanoplastics. These include:
- Choosing glass or metal bottles over plastic ones, as they are less likely to leach nanoplastics into the water.
- Storing bottled water in cool, dark, and dry places, away from direct sunlight, heat sources, or mechanical stress.
- Consuming bottled water as soon as possible after opening, and avoiding reusing or refilling plastic bottles.
- Recycling or disposing of plastic bottles properly, and avoiding littering or dumping them in the environment.
Bottled water is not as pure and pristine as it may seem, as it contains up to 100 times more plastic particles than previously estimated. These nanoplastics are invisible to the naked eye, but they can pose serious risks to human health and the environment. The best way to reduce nanoplastic pollution from bottled water is to avoid using bottled water altogether, and opt for tap water instead. If bottled water is unavoidable, some measures can be taken to minimize the exposure to nanoplastics, such as choosing glass or metal bottles, storing bottled water properly, consuming bottled water quickly, and recycling or disposing of plastic bottles responsibly.