Laser technology reveals nanoplastics in drinking water bottles

Laser technology reveals nanoplastics in drinking water bottles
Laser technology reveals nanoplastics in drinking water bottles

You’ve probably heard of microplastics, the small particles of plastic found in our water, our food and even our bodies. But what about nanoplastics, even smaller but just as worrying?

A worrying discovery

Nanoplastics were until recently considered too small to be detected individually. Their mass in a sample could only be estimated. However, using new laser technology, researchers at Columbia and Rutgers were able to detect these tiny plastic particles. Using two lasers calibrated to recognize chemical bonds in nanoplastics, they were able to count them on an ultrathin membrane after filtering water from three different brands of water bottles.

Alarming results

Their research, summarized in a Grist article, found that plastic water bottles contain nearly 250,000 nanoplastics per liter, 10 to 100 times more than previous estimates. Wei Min, one of the Columbia researchers, told Grist that this effective method for identifying nanoplastics opens new avenues for exploring their effects on human health andenvironment.

Why is this important?

Microplastics are less than 5 millimeters in size, while nanoplastics are even smaller, measuring less than a micrometer, or 1/1000th of a millimeter. For comparison, a human hair is approximately 70 micrometers in diameter. These plastic particles are found in our water, our food, our cosmetics and much more.

Once ingested or inhaled, nanoplastics can enter cells, damage DNA and harm our immune system, heart, brain and reproductive system.

What can we do ?

To reduce exposure to micro- and nanoplastics, it is advisable to avoid plastic water bottles, not purchase harmful types of plastic, and support policies to reduce our dependence on plastic.

Meanwhile, researchers are developing new methods to prevent microplastics and nanoplastics from entering the environment, from production through the recycling process. Many are working on biodegradable plastics, materials that completely break down into carbon, oxygen and other elements. Improvements are being made to Source capture methods, such as wastewater and stormwater runoff, to prevent plastic particles from entering waterways. Some specific insects can even digest polyethylene, the most common type of plastic.

A glimmer of hope

Despite concerns about nanoplastics, there is still hope. By making conscious choices and supporting policies and legislation to reduce the use of plastic, we can contribute to a cleaner future. It is crucial to take action now to minimize the impact of plastics on our health and environment.

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