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Study Has Jarring News for Drinkers of Premium Tea

Those fancy plastic bags deposit billions of microplastics into the cup, say researchers
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 27, 2019 8:57 AM CDT
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Some tea bags are putting more than tea into your cup.   (Getty/Simotion)

(Newser) – What do you take in your tea? A little cream, a little sugar, and ... billions of microscopic pieces of plastic? That's the takeaway from a new study at Canada's McGill University, reports the BBC. The study involves only tea that comes in plastic tea bags, generally of the premium variety. Loose-leaf tea and paper tea bags are not affected. Here is how the CBC describes it: "Many fancier teas now come in 'silken' bags instead of paper. Some of them are pyramid-shaped, which is billed as a way to make room for the large leaves in premium teas to expand." Researchers found that a single such bag deposits billions—yes, with a b—of particles of microplastics into the tea, significantly more than the amount found in other food or beverages, reports CNN. Before drinkers of premium tea freak out, nobody is saying the tiny particles pose a health risk.

Still, "we were shocked when we saw billions of particles in a single cup of tea," says Laura Hernandez, one of the researchers on the study in Environmental Science & Technology. A fellow researcher, chemical engineering professor Nathalie Tufenkji, says the findings point to the need for further research on potential health risks. "Personally, I would say avoid the plastic tea bags because it's just another single-use plastic," she adds. The material used in the bags is PET, polyethylene terephthalate, which is also found in plastic drinking bottles, per the CBC. Canada's Tea and Herbal Association says PET is safe for use in hot beverages. For the record, the study found that a single bag releases about 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nanoplastics (even smaller than microplastics) into a cup. (No matter what tea you brew, you might want to let it cool.)

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