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One bottle of water has around 240,000 plastic fragments

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A typical litre bottle of water could contain up to 240,000 plastic fragments.

This latest estimate is up to 100 times greater than scientists had reckoned back in 2018—but nobody has a clue what this could be doing to our health.

Scientists at Columbia Climate School tested three popular brands of bottled water and discovered between 100,000 and 370,000 particles of plastic in each litre.

Most of the particles were nanoplastics—extremely tiny fragments that can pass through intestines and lungs and into the bloodstream—and the other 10 percent were microplastics, fragments that measure anything from 5 millimetres (less than a quarter of an inch) down to one millionth of a metre, or 1/25,000th of an inch.  A nanoparticle is less than 1 micrometre.

Plastic bottles are mainly made with PET, polyethylene terephthalate, and this was one of the most common plastics the scientists detected, suggesting they had leached from the bottle itself.  But plastics are everywhere, the scientists say.  Worldwide plastic production is approaching 400 million metric tons a year, and 30 million tons are dumped in water or on land.  

Plastics don’t break into benign substances but divide and divide again into smaller particles of the same chemical composition that doesn’t degrade.

The scientists say that plastic particles are in any product that is in a plastic bottle, such as mayonnaise and ketchup.  Plastics are also in the public water supply, although to a far lesser extent than in bottled water.  

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PNAS, 2024; doi: 10.1073/pnas.2300582121
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