NEW YORK (WABC) -- A recent study revealed that bottled water sold in stores may contain 10 to 100 times more tiny plastic particles than previously thought.
The study, conducted by researchers from Columbia University and Rutgers University, found the average liter-sized plastic bottle of water contains nearly 240,000 invisible pieces called nanoplastics.
The nanoplastics were detected and categorized for the first time by a laser guided microscope.
Scientists have long assumed tiny particles of plastic leach off the bottle into these drinks, but this latest research revealed exactly much and what kind.
Dr. Phoebe Stapleton, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Rutgers University and co-author of the new study, spoke to Eyewitness News reporter Josh Einiger on Extra Time about this new discovery means.
"The thing that was interesting to me was of the three different brands that we looked at, the top number of one certain chemical wasn't the same between the three," Dr. Stapleton revealed. "Each brand had a different highest percentage of a certain type of plastic."
Of course, the discovery of these tiny plastic particles now begs the question: are bottled water unsafe?
As the toxicology representative from the study group, Dr. Stapleton noted it is too early to tell.
"In order to do that, we really need to understand what the dose is that the human might be exposed to, and further from that we need to understand how much of those are getting into the body and even getting out of the body and into other tissues," she said.
Though tiny, these particles can enter the bloodstream and potentially distribute harmful chemicals in the body.
The International Bottled Water Association said in a statement: "There currently is both a lack of standardized (measuring) methods and no scientific consensus on the potential health impacts of nano- and microplastic particles. Therefore, media reports about these particles in drinking water do nothing more than unnecessarily scare consumers."
The world "is drowning under the weight of plastic pollution, with more than 430 million tonnes of plastic produced annually" and microplastics found in the world's oceans, food and drinking water with some of them coming from clothing and cigarette filters, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. Efforts for a global plastics treaty continue after talks bogged down in November.
Outside experts, who praised the study, agreed that there's a general unease about perils of fine plastics particles, but it's too early to say for sure.
Either way, the new finding reinforces longstanding advice from experts who say to either drink tap water from glass or stainless steel containers to reduce exposure.
"I think right now this is an awareness," Dr. Stapleton assured about this latest study. "An awareness to lead to reducing use, reducing exposure, increasing recycling campaigns to try to bring more support and understanding to this concern."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.