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Nanoplastics in Bottled Water: What are we actually drinking?

Updated: Feb 21

Plastic water bottle containing nanoplastics

New research is sounding the alarm, revealing that the average 1-litre bottle of water contains nearly a quarter-million nanoplastics. And guess what? Journalists at Le Monde and Radio France have just reached the startling revelation that Nestle's so-called "natural" spring water might not be as pure as we thought. It's time to get real and ask: What are we actually drinking when it comes to bottled water? 

Hold on, what are nanoplastics? 

New research has uncovered hundreds of thousands of tiny nanoplastic particles in bottled water, and at less than 1 micrometer in size, we can’t even see them 🤯

Figures from this latest study are revealing at least 100x MORE nanoplastics inside plastic water bottles than the quantity of microplastic particles previously documented by scientists. Scale that up and you’ve got a floating, plastic mess. 

Even more pervasive and reactive than microplastics (plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in size), plastics at the nanoscale have no problem entering the bloodstream where they can then be carried to vital organs including our brain, as they diffuse across the blood-brain barrier. And the potential effects of this are pretty….bleak (more on that in just a sec). 

So, are we literally drinking a plastic soup? 

Whenever you drink from a plastic bottle, potentially toxic nanoplastics are infiltrating the body. But it’s not just inside plastic bottles that tiny plastics persist. Microplastics are ubiquitous in household and urban environments - with evidence suggesting we inhale up to 5 grams (aka one credit card’s worth) of plastic per week

And the scariest part? Despite growing momentum in this field of research, there still remain huge question marks over plastic’s long-term health consequences.


How can we limit our plastic exposure and what are the long-term effects? 

While the International Bottled Water Association claims there's "no evidence nanoplastics pose a threat to human health," it's crucial to consider the impact of plastic exposure at a cellular level. Mutating cells leading to cancer, diabetes, and fertility problems are known effects of plastic exposure, but stricter regulations don’t yet exist for plastics in food and beverages, resulting in a catalogue of ill-effects that fly under the radar.

Continued consumption of plastic bottled water may also worsen risks such as intestinal inflammatory response, oxidative stress, and metabolic disorders over time. So the best way to limit your exposure? Use sustainable plastic alternatives, kickstart your plastic-free transition and join the #PlasticFreeParty (Yes, we’re looking at YOU) 💃😜 

From nanoplastics to Nestlé…what’s the deal with their natural spring water? 

We mentioned earlier that French investigations have revealed that Nestlé, among other big brand water companies, are illegally purifying contaminated water. By mixing tap water with source water in their bottles, colluding with the French government to relax regulations, and misrepresenting treated water as source water, their deceptive practices have raised more than a few eyebrows here at Bye Bye Plastic HQ.

But without these illegal treatments, it wouldn’t actually be possible for Nestlé to continue operating their existing mineral water plants, so much so that their mineral water has lost its “natural” status. This is primarily due to the regular contamination of the water sources they exploit by bacteria and chemical pollutants.

What is the safest bottled water to drink in 2024?

When it comes to choosing the safest bottled water, we don’t have one easy answer. While Nestlé was the focus of this investigation, it’s likely that more than a third of bottled water brands would not comply with regulations. This casts a wave of uncertainty over the entire bottled water industry. Americans purchase a staggering 50 billion water bottles each year, and 35 billion of them will end up discarded. Our throwaway plastic culture poses a threat to our water sources, just as nanoplastics may pose a danger to us. The contamination of precious natural water reserves exploited by Nestlé serves as a stark reminder that every action is interconnected. 

Should I stop drinking bottled water?

At Bye Bye Plastic, our mission is to dance towards a future free from plastic. If we had our way, the resounding answer would be YES to giving up single-use plastic. For all our plastic-free transitions, we recommend water fountains for events and public spaces, while domestic water filtration systems offer a solution where tap water is variable in quality. Let's keep joining forces to make it happen!

The bottom line 

Whichever way you look at it, our bottled water habit comes at a cost. But by evolving together, we can make a positive impact on our environment by choosing smarter ways to consume water!

As a non-profit organisation fighting plastic pollution, every donation to Bye Bye Plastic Foundation helps us facilitate sustainable transitions in the music industry 🚀

Vote YES to a world without plastic and support us here 💚

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