Milk? Sugar? Microplastics? Some tea bags found to shed billions of particles

28 Septembre, 2019, 04:44 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Plastic tea bags fill cup with billions of micro-plastic particles

Billions of particles of microplastic are being shed into every cuppa that is made using plastic tea bags, experts have found. The study involves only tea that comes in plastic tea bags, generally of the premium variety.

Microplastics have widely been found in the environment, in tap and bottled waters, and in some foods. The study authors acknowledge that the amount of plastics in a single cup of tea-around 16 micrograms-is not likely to pose any acute toxicity risks, but questions linger about the impacts of long-term exposure. Many tea brands now use tea bags marketed as "silken", which are actually made of synthetic materials, such as nylon and polyethylene, so Tufenkji chose to experiment back at the lab. They found that "a significant number of particles are released even when the tea bags are uncut".

The team removed the tea from inside the bags to prevent it from interfering with the results, before boiling the bags in water to simulate the tea-making process. "Overall, the knowledge on adverse effects of plastic particles on human health is still lacking", the researchers write, "and there is an urgent need to investigate potential toxic mechanisms in higher vertebrates and humans". The particles are completely invisible to the naked eye.

Scientists have found microplastics in various foods, but less research has been done into whether they can be shed into water during the brewing of tea and other hot drinks.

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Many tea producers use polypropylene to seal their bags.

The researchers dosed the water fleas with different amounts of the released micro- and nano-plastics from the tea bags and observed anatomical and behavioral abnormalities, though more research is needed to determine what kind of effect micro- and nanoplastics would have on humans.

But she also said it could be due the fact "it's a piece of plastic being exposed to boiling water" and not just water at room temperature.

"Although mindful consumers are promoting the reduction of single-use plastics, some manufacturers are creating new plastic packaging to replace traditional paper uses, such as plastic teabags", the study abstract says. But as you sip on your favorite brew, you may be unwittingly ingesting billions of microplastics, according to a new study in Environmental Science & Technology.

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