Experiments show that a single plastic teabag leaves billions of microplastic particles in each cup. Time to say goodbye to these kinds of bags?
A Canadian team of scientists found that if you immerse a plastic teabag in 95 degrees Celsius water, approximately 11.6 billion microplastic particles are released. These are particles measuring between 100 nanometres and 5 millimetres.
We find that very much in comparison with other foods that contain microplastic’, says chemical technologist Nathalie Tufenkji of the Canadian McGill University. Table salt, which has a relatively high microplastic content, contains approximately 0.005 micrograms of plastic per gram of salt. In a cup of tea with 16 micrograms per cup is thousands of times more plastic.
Deformed water fleas
The Tufenkji team bought four different tea bags at shops and cafés in Montreal. They then cut them open, washed them and immersed them in 95 degrees Celsius water. The researchers then analysed the water with electron microscopes and spectroscopy. They also looked at a number of non-opened bags, to make sure that the release of microplastic was not the result of cutting them open.
In order to determine whether the particles released from the bags were toxic, Tufenkji and colleagues exposed water fleas to the contaminated water. The particles did not kill the water fleas,’ says Tufenkji. They did have a measurable influence on their behaviour and led to deformities,’ says Tufenkji.
Tufenkji adds that more research is needed to determine possible dangers to human health. In anticipation of a definite answer, she suggests that tea drinkers leave plastic tea bags aside for a while. You can also buy tea in paper bags or loose tea bags, which do not require plastic packaging that you only use once.