Plastic Teabags Packed with MicroPlastics

Do you use plastic tea bags found with the purchase of many premium brands of tea? You might reconsider after reading this post.

Best to use paper teabags. Or, even better, loose teas.

Best to use paper teabags. Or, even better, loose teas.

It turns out that a single plastic teabag, the ones that feel ‘silky’ to the touch, brewing at 95 degrees Celsius releases about 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nanoplastics into a single cup of hot tea, according to a study from McGill University released today.

The McGill study found that plastic teabags release billions of miroplastics such as nylon and polyethylene terephthalate into our otherwise delightful cup of tea. The microplastics, about the size of grains of dust therefore we don’t see them, are swallowed and found throughout our digestive system.

It is unknown what the risks of drinking microplastics might be, according to scientists. But common-sense dictates that it very likely is not a good thing.

Nathalie Tufenkji, a professor of chemical engineering at the Montreal University, said she was shocked to find billions of particles in a single cup of tea instead of the expected hundreds or thousands.

She said microplastics are often found in bottled water, beer, commercial honey, chicken, and salt but she pointed out to the CBC that in those cases it is an accidental contaminant. With tea “you’re literally adding plastic into the beverage.”

The study was conducted by cutting open bags of tea, removing the tea, rinsing off any pieces that might have come off during cutting, then steeping the bags in distilled water at 95 C. After letting the water evaporate, the researchers took a sample and counted the plastic particles under an electron microscope. There were other cross studies conducted as well (you can read more about them in this article here) but the most interesting was the final study when researchers exposed water fleas to the microplastic-laden water.

They didn’t die, but swam “crazily,” Tufenkji said. “It really stresses them out.”

It wasn’t clear how the microplastics were affecting the water fleas which is alarming in itself as we don’t know how it’s ultimately affecting humans. It should be noted that the study declined to name the brands used in the study.

Best to avoid plastic tea bags, which are a single-use plastic, and stick to paper teabags and loose teas.