According to a study published this week by researchers at Columbia and Rutgers Universities and published in the journal The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, popular brands of bottled water tested contain hundreds of thousands of tiny bits of plastic— in quantities 10 to 100 times more than previously estimated. Around 90 percent of these particles were “nanoplastics,” which are tiny enough to pass through cells directly into the bloodstream to lungs, intestines, and even into the brain.

“Previously this was just a dark area, uncharted. Toxicity studies were just guessing what’s in there,” said study coauthor Beizhan Yan, an environmental chemist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “This opens a window where we can look into a world that was not exposed to us before.”

Scientists were aware of the existence of micro plastic in bottled water, which slough off the container as it sits on shelves and especially in the sun, but this study confirms that microscopic bits of plastics are entering our bodies in large quantities through these disposable water bottles. Nanoplastics were previously difficult to quantify and the authors measured far more in bottled water than was previously estimated. The authors also assert that nano plastics are more readily absorbed by the body than micro plastics, and therefore possibly even more problematic.

The safest way to avoid drinking microplastics is to carry and refill a reusable water bottle. You can also tell your mayor and city council that you would like single use plastic water bottles banned in Newton.

More Information:

Bottled Water Can Contain Hundreds of Thousands of Nanoplastics.” Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, January 9, 2024.

Researchers find a massive number of plastic particles in bottled water.”, January 10, 2024.

“‘Nanoplastics’ found in popular bottled water brands. Here’s what to know.” Boston Globe, January 10, 2024.