Nanoplastics and Microplastics in Tea: Why You Should Care
Microplastics in tea: There are many benefits to drinking tea, but a new study suggests your daily cuppa’ might be causing more harm than good. The problem lies not in the tea, but the teabag—and more specifically, the microplastics beings leached out of the bag and into your hot drink. Today we explore the plastics in tea bags, why you should care, and some options to mitigate the problem without having to give up tea altogether.
Plastics In Your Tea: The Study
A new study, published by researchers at McGill University in Montreal, found that a single plastic-based tea bag releases approximately 11.6 billion microplastic particles and 3.1 billion nanoplastics into your mug.
Microplastics and even smaller particles nanoplastics aren’t visible to the human eye, but their impact on your health is very real. The dosage per tea bag is particularly concerning. For perspective, a single-use plastic bottle releases about 44 microplastic particles
Nanoplastics and Microplastics in Tea: Why You Should Care
Micro and nanoparticles might seem insignificant in the scheme of it all, but these microscopic particles are having a very real impact on your health. The good news is that plastics have a very short half-life and are generally excreted within 24 hours. They do not bio-accumulate in your body, meaning that you typically excrete them via urine and sweat relatively efficiently. The issue with plastics, however, is that they are so prevalent in our society that we’re always in contact with them.
There are many nasty chemicals found in these plastic particles, including commonly known BPA’s. BPA’s are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the thousands of types of different toxic chemicals found in plastics.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a synthetic estrogen used to harden polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resin. This manufactured form of estrogen is linked to a wide range of health issues. Some of the effects that BPA’s have on the body include:
- Hormonal imbalances (caused by estrogen dominance)
- Heart problems
- Behavioral issues in children
The microplastics in tea problems are not limited to tea bags, either. These tiny plastic particles have permeated such a wide range of products, including sugar, shellfish, honey, and beer. Plastic particles also into the foods and liquids stored in plastic containers or bottles. Plastic Tupperware used in homes causes the same problem.
One study highlights the fact that, on average, we consume 70,000 particles annually just from the ambient dust that settles on our food. A 2019 study by the World Wide Fund for Nature estimated that the average person ingests about five grams of plastic a week – approximately the size of a credit card!
Microplastics in Tea: Go Organic
Apart from the fact that most tea bags are leaching plastics into your mug, it’s essential also to address the quality of the tea itself. Tea is notorious for being one of the most sprayed crops on the market, commonly farmed in areas of high industrial pollution. So if avoiding toxicity is on your radar, being mindful of the quality of your tea is just as crucial as the teabag or packaging that it comes in.
All this information might be shocking, but fortunately, there are various things you can do to mitigate the toxic damage already done and prevent it from happening ever again.
1. Switch to Non-Toxic Tea Bags
The obvious place to start is no longer using the types of tea bags that leach plastic nano and microparticles. Thankfully many incredible organic tea companies are making easy-to-use high-quality teas in non-toxic, plastic-free tea bags. My favorite brand is Pique Tea. Pique tea ensures a higher level of purity than any other tea on the market by screening for dangerous and common toxins like 1) Pesticides, 2) Heavy metals and 3) Toxic mold. Tea is one of the most pesticide-laden crops and commonly farmed in areas of high industrial pollution. With unnaturally long shelf-lives, teabags can also accumulate toxic mold in harmful quantities. These toxins have been linked to a range of long-term health issues for regular tea drinkers.
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2. Use Loose Leaf Tea
Most organic stores or bulk food stores sell loose-leaf teas. The tea leaves are not in individual packets, so you can use a filter or buy non-toxic tea bags and pack them yourself. Some new water bottles also come with built-in stainless steel tea compartments for loose leaf tea.
Our favorite plastic-free organic tea option at the moment is Pique Tea Crystals. Thanks to their innovative cold-brew crystallization, Pique has created a tea that comes in sachets and completely dissolves into hot or cold water without any need for straining. All the Pique teas are triple toxin screened for pesticides, toxic mold, and heavy metals. These organic teas are specially formulated to support either energy, fasting, or calming.
3. Ditch The Plastic
Since plastics don’t bioaccumulate in the body, the most important thing you can do to heal from plastic toxicity is stop using plastics. Apart from quitting conventional tea bags, you want to avoid using plastics altogether. Instead of using plastic containers or buying anything that comes wrapped in or stored in plastic, opt for glass.
If you can’t avoid using plastic or buying something that is wrapped in plastic, definitely avoid heating or cooling it. Extreme temperatures degrade the plastic, causing it to leach more particles into your food, beverage, or whatever else it touches. If you buy something in single-use plastic, avoid re-using it. These plastics are particularly fragile and are much quicker to degrade (leach).
Microplastics in tea: Whether you’ve been a regular conventional tea drinker your whole life or not, our bodies are constantly exposed to such toxins. As we have explored, it’s estimated that we consume 70,000 particles annually due to the ambient dust that settles on our food. The need for detox is clear, and when it comes to plastic, there’s no better way to detox than to stay hydrated, and sweat.
Thankfully, plastics don’t bioaccumulate in the body, so first and foremost, remove your exposure as much as possible. After that, stay hydrated (drinking only properly filtered or spring water), and sweat multiple times a week. Whether you sweat through exercise, sunbathing, or sauna—sweating regularly is a great way to promote whole-body health (including the lymphatic system) and ensures your excreting those nanoparticles of plastic making their way into your body whether you like it or not.
Microplastics in Tea: Summary
Recent studies highlight the concerningly high degree of microplastics and nanoplastics found in conventional teabags. The side effects of chronic plastic exposure range from hormonal imbalances and infertility to cancer and other major health issues. Thankfully, the half-life of plastic is short, and so getting rid of your plastic exposure is probably the most significant thing you can do to mitigate the health problems associated with exposure. Using plastic-free organic teas like Pique Crystals are a great way to continue to enjoy the benefits of tea without the harmful impact of plastics, herbicides, and pesticides.
Avoiding plastic, in general, is key to fixing the problem. These chemicals are found in a wide range of foods, and single-use plastic is pervasive in modern society. So start by getting your plastic use in check. You can also focus on staying hydrated, and sweating regularly to help your body naturally rid itself of the unavoidable micro-exposure we get in day-to-day life.
“Assessing Plastic Ingestion from Nature to People.” WWF Analysis, University of Newcastle, Australia, wwf.fi/app/uploads/9/3/m/urcue1dmjetxn1otmy2wc0/plastic-ingestion-raportti-wwf.pdf.
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Hernandez, Laura M., et al. “Plastic Teabags Release Billions of Microparticles and Nanoparticles into Tea.” Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 53, no. 21, 2019, pp. 12300–12310., doi:10.1021/acs.est.9b02540.
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Schymanski, Darena, et al. “Analysis of Microplastics in Water by Micro-Raman Spectroscopy: Release of Plastic Particles from Different Packaging into Mineral Water.” Water Research, vol. 129, 2018, pp. 154–162., doi:10.1016/j.watres.2017.11.011.