Some premium tea bags release billions of microscopic plastic particles when steeping in hot water, according to a new study authored by researchers at Montreal’s McGill University.
The peer-reviewed study, published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal, found plastic tea bags – when steeping in nearly boiling water – shed more than 10 billion microplastic and nanoplastic particles into the water, a level “thousands of times higher than those reported previously in other foods,” according to a Wednesday McGill University press release.
There is no conclusive research on the possible health effects of ingesting such particles, study co-author Laura M. Hernandez told USA TODAY on Saturday.
The tea bags examined in the McGill study were made of PET plastic or nylon. Often such tea bags are triangular in shape and allow the tea drinker to see the leaves through the bag, Hernandez said.
But these kinds of tea bags account for only a small fraction of those used by tea drinkers, an industry expert told USA TODAY.
Plastic tea bags are typically used for high-end specialty teas and account for about 5% the tea bag market, Peter F. Goggi, president of the Tea Association of the U.S.A. Inc., said Saturday.
A large portion of such plastic tea bags sold today are also made of a biodegradable material that was not tested in the study, Goggi said.
A statement from the Tea Association of the U.S.A. touts the health benefits of tea and assures tea drinkers that drinking tea brewed in tea bags is safe.
The McGill study joins an increasing body of science studying plastic particles in our food and water, raising both health and environmental concerns.
In June, a study claiming that people are ingesting enough plastic weekly to create a credit card made national headlines.
For Hernandez, the results of the study of plastic tea bags is another reason for consumers to be conscious about the packaging of their food and drink. Brewing loose leaf tea and avoiding disposable packaging can help both the environment – and possibly your health, she said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Microplastics: Some tea bags release plastic particles, study says