Researchers at McGill University in Montreal have discovered that plastic teabags release billions of micro- and nano-sized plastic particles into tea. The possible health effects are still unknown.
Many argue that we are now living in the Plastic Age, and with good reason too: millions of plastics end up in our landfills and oceans each year, where they don’t easily degrade. We are also consuming more and more plastics: be it via the food on our plates or through the water we drink.
Now, researchers McGill University in Montreal have discovered that trendy plastic teabags release billions of micro- and nanoplastic particles into beverages during brewing.
The team purchased four different commercial teas packaging in plastic teabags, cut open the bags and then removed the tea leaves so that they wouldn’t interfere with the analysis. They then heated the empty teabags in water to simulate brewing teac.
Using electron microscopy, the team found that a single plastic teabag steeped at 95 degrees Celsius releases about 11.6 billion microplastic and 3.1 billion nanoplastic particles into the water. These levels are thousands of times higher than those reported previously in other foods.
As part of their study, the researchers exposed water fleas, often used in environmental studies, with various doses of the micro- and nanoplastics released from the teabags. The animals showed some anatomical and behavioural abnormalities afterwards, leading the researchers to conclude that more research is needed to determine the possible health effects on humans.
Image credit: Rudy and Peter Skitterians via Pixabay