Teabags & Microplastic: Are We Paying a Steep Price for That Cup of Tea? by Donna John

4 years ago

Teabags & Microplastic: Are We Paying a Steep Price for That Cup of Tea?

Milk? Sugar? Lemon? Microplastics? Say what? According to a study from McGill University, around 11.6 billion microplastic particles and 3.1 billion even smaller nanoplastic particles are leached into tea from teabags.

How does one conduct a study of teabags? The researchers purchased four different commercial teas that were packed in plastic teabags. The bags were cut open and the tea removed so it didn’t affect the results of the study. Boiling water was then introduced to the party to simulate making tea at home. The study was published in the American Chemical Society journal, Environmental Science & Technology.

A separate study from the University of Newcastle in Australia found that we consume about 5 grams of plastic each week – about the weight of a credit card.

Even though the World Health Organization (WHO) recently stated that microplastics “don’t appear to pose a health risk at current levels,” who wants plastic in their glass or cup of tea? Strong pass. WHO did say that more research is needed on how microplastics affect the body.

Did you know that many tea producers use polypropylene to seal their bags? What is polypropylene, you might ask? Polypropylene is "a thermoplastic 'addition polymer' made from the combination of propylene monomers ... it has a low density relative to other common plastics, which translates to weight savings for manufacturers," according to Creative Mechanisms. Sounds appealing to mix with your tea, right?

Before you cross tea off your shopping list, a good alternative would be to steep loose tea instead of grabbing that teabag. This can be done with a tea infuser or in a loose tea pot. Loose tea comes in all different varieties and flavors, so this might break you out of your black tea funk – though there's nothing better than a good glass of iced black tea.

Will you continue using teabags? Tell us why or why not below. 

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Elisa Schmitz
This is absolutely crazy! As a huge tea drinker, I am so sad about this. Microplastics are in everything, so awful! I have re-discovered my tea infuser. Just today, I made a lovely pot of loose jasmine green tea and sliced up some organic ginger. Steeped it for five minutes and voila! Delicious (and hopefully no microplastics)! (See photo!) Thanks for this important info, Donna John .
Donna John
After I try my tea infuser, will probably buy one of the teapots, too. :-)
Donna John
I drink tea every day, so I am with you on the concerns. I just ordered the Stainless Steel Loose Leaf Tea Infuser (Set of 2) $16 from the list above. I'm done with the bland taste of most teabags anyway. Ready to move on to flavorful teas -- without the plastics! Elisa All Schmitz 30Seconds
Nicole DeAvilla
This is so disconcerting! Are paper tea bags OK? Of course, I guess it may be hard to tell what the tea bags are made of - no label requirements I would guess.
There also is a brand that says the tea bags are made of silk. So wondering about them too.
Gwen Johnson
Get out! This is frightening. As much tea as I've drank in my life, I should be completely plastic by now. Going to consider loose tea.
Donna John
After completely overthinking which loose tea to order, decided to try the VAHDAM tea sampler. Just made my first glass, iced, and in an Astros glass because we just won our first playoff game. Woop! Really liking the Assam Exotic. Elisa All Schmitz 30Seconds Gwen Johnson Nicole DeAvilla

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