Would you dunk your grandma’s cookies in a steaming cup of plastic? We didn’t think so. But some tea bags release billions of microplastic particles while steeping in hot water, so chances are you have dunked grandma’s cookies in a steaming cup of tea filled with microplastics at one point or another.
A single plastic tea bag can release up to 11.6 billion microplastics into a cup of hot water. These levels are thousands of times higher than the microplastic levels reported in other beverages and foods, including bottled water.
Microplastic particles are invisible to the human eye. In a cup of hot tea, they come from tea bags that are made of PET or nylon. You know, the fancy triangle-shaped ones that you can see through?
Plastic tea bags are typically used for high-end specialty teas and account for only 5% of the teabag market. The study did not disclose the names of the brands they tested, but noted that in order to avoid microplastics in a cup of tea, consumers need to pay attention to the packaging their tea comes in. While most tea bags are made of paper, many use plastic glue made from polypropylene to seal the bags.
We don’t know how sipping on microplastic particles will influence human health just yet, but studies suggest that the chemicals found in plastics may be harmful to humans. Chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates have been linked to endocrine disruption, which means they can interfere with hormones, cause birth defects and other health problems.
If plastic isn’t your cup of tea, do your research to make sure your tea isn’t packaged or sealed with plastic. Or, skip the bag entirely and try brewing loose leaf tea!