On average, a quarter of a million of the five most popular mineral waters were detected as part of a research.
One of the most important elements of life on earth is water. It covers two-thirds of our planet, it makes up 75 percent of our body, and we can survive for up to three days without it. When we look for traces of organic life beyond the stratosphere of the universe, we are actually looking for water.
Water is a very divisive common cause. There are places where there is enough, while in other places there is hardly any. We use so much of it in industry and agriculture that it is slowly being questioned whether we manage it well.
What is certain is that with the spread of mass production, we are using more and more plastic-based packaging materials, which also has an impact on water pollution globally. Plastic pieces smaller than 5 mm in water, even visible to the naked eye, are called microplastics.
We used to think that a liter of bottled water sometimes contained a few hundred of these plastic particles, but a new research shed light on a group of these even smaller pieces, of which there are significantly more. Such pieces between one nanometer and one micrometer are called nanoplastics. These have now been detected and categorized for the first time using a microscope operating with a double laser.
Researchers have suspected for some time that there are many more of these microscopic plastic particles than discovered so far, but until researchers from Columbia and Rutgers universities in the US did their calculations, they did not know how many and what kind. Based on five samples each from three leading bottled water brands, the researchers found that the amount of particles ranged from 110,000 to 400,000 per liter, or an average of around 240,000, according to a study published earlier this week.
Previously, only particles larger than one nanometer were examined, but as it turned out, there can be up to 100 times more particles smaller than this in a unit amount of water. According to the results of the study, most of the plastic comes from the bottle itself and the reverse osmosis membrane filter used to keep out other contaminants, according to Naixin Qian, a physical chemist at Columbia University who led the study.
Rutgers toxicologist Phoebe Stapleton, co-author of the study, said that they do not yet know how dangerous this phenomenon is. However, it says a lot about his opinion that he, along with several other colleagues working on the project, significantly cut back on their bottled water consumption. It can be known for sure that the contamination also gets into the tissues of mammals, but it is not yet known whether it causes problems there. For this reason, among other things, an interest protection organization representing bottled water companies classified the study as unnecessary harassment.
According to the UN Environmental Protection Program, the world is almost suffocating under the weight of plastic pollution, which is aggravated by more than 430 million tons annually. As Phoebe Stapleton writes in a statement:
“You just can’t win.”