Hidden danger lurking in your tea. Picture: iStock
Hidden danger lurking in your tea. Picture: iStock

Disgusting truth about drinking tea

The humble cup of tea could be contaminated with billions of plastic particles, new research suggests.

A recent study conducted by researchers at McGill University in Canada found that the classic beverage may come with a hefty dose of microplastic which is released from plastic tea bags, as manufacturers move away from the traditional paper option.

Professor of Chemical Engineering Nathalie Tufenkji and her team discovered that a single plastic tea bag shed billions of microplastic pieces into the water, releasing about 11 billion microplastic and 3 billion nanoplastic particles into a single cup of tea.

 

New research suggests that cups of tea could be contaminated with billions of plastic particles. Picture: Getty Images
New research suggests that cups of tea could be contaminated with billions of plastic particles. Picture: Getty Images

According to McGill's summary of the study, the levels of plastic recorded in a cup of tea were thousands of times higher than those reported previously in other foods.

"We were very, very surprised," Dr. Tufenkji told Global News.

"We thought [plastic tea bags] maybe release a couple of hundred [plastic] particles, maybe a few thousand. So we were really shocked when we saw they're releasing billions of particles into a cup of tea."

 

One plastic tea bag shed billions of microplastic particles.
One plastic tea bag shed billions of microplastic particles.

 

Further testing of the bag themselves revealed that the material of the shards was made of the same plastic materials as Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a plastic resin widely used for packaging foods and beverages.

An estimated 96 per cent of tea bags contain polypropylene, a substance used to seal them closed and to ensure they keep their shape.

"While the possible health effects of ingesting these particles are currently unknown, the new research published in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology suggests further investigation is needed," the summary says.

"More research is needed to determine if the plastics could have more subtle or chronic effects on humans."

 

96 per cent of tea bags contain plastic.
96 per cent of tea bags contain plastic.

 

Last year research found that 90 per cent of the world's bottled water is contaminated with dangerous microplastics.

"Widespread contamination" with plastic was found in the study, led by microplastic researcher Sherri Mason of the State University of New York at Fredonia.

Researchers tested 250 bottles of water in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Thailand and the United States.

 

90 per cent of the world’s bottled water is contaminated with dangerous microplastics.
90 per cent of the world’s bottled water is contaminated with dangerous microplastics.

 

Plastic was identified in 93 per cent of the samples which including some of the world's leading brands of bottled water such as Aqua, Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, Nestle Pure Life and San Pellegrino.

The plastic debris including nylon, PET and polypropylene, which is used to make bottle caps.

"In this study, 65 per cent of the particles we found were actually fragments and not fibres," Ms Mason told AFP.

"I think that most of the plastic that we are seeing is coming from the bottle itself. It is coming from the cap. It is coming from the industrial process of bottling the water."



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