Many of us add milk, honey, or sugar to our tea, but did you know there might be another secret ingredient in your teacup?
Research has found microplastics from tea bags can leach into your tea when exposed to hot water.
Nutritionist Courtney Swan (@realfoodology) shared a video explaining how plastic from tea bags can end up in your tea. “According to studies, a single standard tea bag releases 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nanoplastics in every cup of tea,” she said.
She seems to have been referencing a 2019 study by researchers at McGill University. The team found a single cup of tea could contain billions of microparticles. However, these particles are so tiny they only add up to one–60th of a milligram of plastic per cup of tea.
Though the thought of drinking plastic might make you uncomfortable, the World Health Organization determined in 2019 that microplastics in drinking water pose a low risk to human health.
The reality is that there simply hasn’t been enough research to know exactly if or how microplastics affect human health. Many experts agree that more research is needed on microplastics before we can understand their impacts.
We do know, however, that microplastics have polluted our environment. These tiny pieces of plastic take thousands of years to break down, so they’re tough to remove from an ecosystem once they’re introduced.
One 2016 study found that four sources of microplastics accounted for 11% of our oceans’
plastic pollution: microbeads in personal care products, plastic fibers from washing textiles, plastic pellets used in making plastic products, and car tires wearing down.
Swan recommends buying loose leaf tea to keep microplastics out of your drink and our environment. “A great alternative is just to buy loose leaf tea and get your own metal strainer and make your own tea,” she said.
Natalie Tufenkji, a professor of chemical engineering and lead researcher in the McGill study, agreed. “I would say avoid the plastic tea bags because it’s just another single-use plastic,” she told CBC News.
Though Swan stated in her video that the “majority” of teas used tea bags containing plastic, users pointed out that many brands ensure their bags do not contain plastic. “You claim that the ‘majority of teas’ in their teabags as you pan over brands that consciously do not use plastic in their bags,” one user pointed out.
Other commenters suggested tea brands that don’t use plastic in their tea bags. “Traditional Medicinals, Pukka, NUMI teas, Republic of Tea, Stash, Yogi,” one user shared.
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