Study Finds Plastic Tea Bags “Shed billions of microscopic particles”

Researchers from Canada’s McGill University found that thecommonly used teabags were shedding micro- and nano-sized particles of plastic.

New research published the last week of September has found that a single plastic teabag releases about 11.6 billion microplastic and 3.1 billion nanoplastic particles into the water at brewing temperature.

Published in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology, the study finds that heating emptied teabags in water to simulate brewing tea releases levels of microplastics thousands of times higher than those reported previously in other foods.

Toconduct their analysis, the researchers purchased four different commercialteas packaged in plastic teabags. The researchers cut open the bags and removedthe tea leaves so that they wouldn’t interfere with the analysis.

Then, they heated the emptiedteabags in water to simulate brewing tea. Using electron microscopy, the teamfound that a single plastic teabag at brewing temperature released about 11.6billion microplastic and 3.1 billion nanoplastic particles into the water.

The research team also explored theeffects of the released particles on small aquatic organisms called Daphniamagna, or water fleas, which are model organisms often used in environmentalstudies.

They treated water fleas withvarious doses of the micro- and nanoplastics released from the teabags andfound that although the animals survived, they did show some “anatomical andbehavioural abnormalities”.

The first author of the study, PhD student Laura Hernandez says more research is needed to determine if the plastics could have more subtle or chronic effects on humans.

This article was originally published in IEG Policy, Agribusiness, Intelligence & Natural Resources