What’s up with plastic tea bags?

Some snazzy teas come in plastic, rather than paper, tea bags. Skip ‘em.

When Canadian researchers steeped empty plastic tea bags in water heated to almost boiling for five minutes, each cup of the water ended up with an estimated 11.6 billion microplastic and 3.1 billion nanoplastic particles.


Most of the particles were nylon and polyethylene terephthalate.

When the scientists concentrated the tea bag water and allowed Daphnia magna—a tiny transparent crustacean used to gauge the harm of toxic chemicals—to swim in it for 48 hours, the crustaceans developed anatomical abnormalities and unusual swimming behavior.

What to do: Why buy plastic when you can use ordinary paper tea bags or a reusable metal infuser for loose-leaf tea? Though no studies on plastic tea bags have been done in humans, the plastic could potentially raise the risk of cancer or other harms, say the authors.

Photo: Victoria M/stock.adobe.com.

The information in this post first appeared in the December 2019 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.

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