If you’re drinking water from plastic bottles you’re likely swallowing a mouthful of microplastic particles, according to a new study. Researchers sampled 250 bottles of water, representing nine different countries and 11 different brands including Aquafina, Dasani, and Nestlé. An overwhelming majority of the samples were contaminated.
Each particle is about the width of a hair, and the study found an average of about 10.5 of them per bottle. The researchers suspect that the presence of plastic is largely due to the plastic bottles, but is also a by-product of the bottling process. Incidentally, plastic contamination is pretty much everywhere—bottled water, tap water, and even ocean water. But the researchers estimate that the microplastic contamination in bottles is double that of tap water.
Although nobody wants to swallow plastic, the long-term health effects of ingesting microplastic particles are not known. But preliminary reports suggest that plastics and the chemicals which attach themselves to plastic in the natural environment could cause poisoning, infertility and genetic disruption in humans. “The presence of microplastic in foodstuffs could potentially increase direct exposure of plastic-associated chemicals to humans and may present an attributable risk to human health,” according to a United Nations report.