A couple of years ago, Nathalie Tufenkji stopped by a Montreal cafe on her way to work and ordered a cup of tea. She sat down together with her mug, enjoying its warmth before she found something strange: Her tea bag seemed to be made of plastic.

"I thought, ‘That’s not a very good idea, putting plastic into boiling water,’ ” she told The Washington Post."
Photo by Lynda Sanchez / Unsplash

Tufenkji was worried that the plastic bags could leach particles into the drink that she and her fellow customers were consuming, and as a professor of chemical engineering at McGill University, she was well-positioned to analyze. She dispatched her student Laura Hernandez to get tea bags from stores in the area and bring them back to the laboratory.

It turns out Tufenkji’s hunch was right. The bags were releasing plastic particles into the brewed tea. Billions and billions of them.

Hernandez, Tufenkji and their fellow researchers at McGill University tested four forms of plastic tea bags in boiling water and found that every bag would release over 11 billion microplastic and 3 billion nano plastic particles. You would not be able to see the contamination with your own eyes; the researchers had to use an electron microscope. However, it’s there.

Their findings were printed in the American Chemical Society journal environmental science & Technology this month.

The four brands of tea they tested came from regular grocery stores in Montreal. After emptying and cleaning the tea bags of any trace of tea leaves, they submerged them in water heated to 203 degrees Fahrenheit, and then they left the bags to steep for 5 minutes.

The researchers then examined the water for leftover particles, placing drops on a slide and examining them under an electron microscope. There, they may see particles of varying sizes, some a little larger, some frighteningly small. Further testing of additional samples unconcealed their structures and confirmed that the fabric was made from constant plastic materials like PET, a form of polyester, and nylon. it absolutely was clear, Tufenkji aforesaid, that the plastic was coming back from the tea bags themselves, not the tea.

Blackened tea leaves
Photo by Oleg Guijinsky / Unsplash

Though Tufenkji declined to call the brands they used for fear of singling out one company over others, she aforesaid that some frequent tea drinkers may be repeatedly dosing themselves with billions of particles of plastic as they drank the drinking day after day. A number of the particles, she noted, would be sufficiently little to probably infiltrate human cells.

Some makers sell tea in plastic bags rather than loose or in paper bags, even as the public becomes more and more aware of how plastic is clogging our bodies of water, likewise as our bodies. while the health implications of consuming plastic are unknown, people around the world are inadvertently eating quite a lot of it.

Earlier this year, a report by the World Wide Fund for Nature calculable that on average, a person may ingest five grams of plastic per week, the equivalent size of a MasterCard. Researchers at the University of the metropolis in Australia compiled dozens of studies on the presence of plastic within the water, likewise as in food such as shellfish and even beer. Studies are underway to determine how plastic consumption can have an effect on human health, through WWF’s study.