Your cup is full of mi­croplas­tics, thanks to teabags

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Trends -

Toronto: Plas­tic tea bags may re­lease mil­lions of mi­cro- and nano-sized par­ti­cles into your brewed bev­er­age, a study claims.

Pos­si­ble health ef­fects of in­gest­ing th­ese par­ti­cles are cur­rently un­known, the study pub­lished in the jour­nal En­vi­ron­men­tal Science & Tech­nol­ogy noted.

Over time, plas­tic breaks down into tiny mi­croplas­tics and even smaller nanoplas­tics, the lat­ter be­ing less than 100 nanome­ters (nm) in size.

For com­par­i­son, a hu­man hair has a di­am­e­ter of about 75,000 nm.

Re­searchers from McGill Univer­sity in Canada have de­tected the mi­cro­scopic par­ti­cles in the en­vi­ron­ment, aquatic or­gan­isms and the food sup­ply, but they don’t know yet whether they are harm­ful to hu­mans.

Nathalie Tufenkji and col­leagues won­dered whether some plas­tic teabags could be re­leas­ing mi­croand nanoplas­tics into the bev­er­age dur­ing brew­ing.

They also wanted to ex­plore ef­fects of the re­leased par­ti­cles on small aquatic or­gan­isms called Daph­nia magna, or wa­ter fleas, which are model or­gan­isms of­ten used in en­vi­ron­men­tal stud­ies.

To con­duct their anal­y­sis, the re­searchers pur­chased four dif­fer­ent com­mer­cial teas pack­aged in plas­tic teabags. The re­searchers cut open the bags, re­moved the tea leaves and washed the empty bags. Then, they heated the teabags in wa­ter to sim­u­late brew­ing con­di­tions.

Us­ing elec­tron mi­croscopy, the team found that a sin­gle plas­tic teabag at brew­ing tem­per­a­ture re­leased about 11.6 bil­lion mi­croplas­tic and 3.1 bil­lion nanoplas­tic par­ti­cles into the wa­ter. Th­ese lev­els were thou­sands of times higher than those re­ported pre­vi­ously in other foods, re­searchers said. In an­other ex­per­i­ment, the team treated wa­ter fleas with var­i­ous doses of the mi­cro- and nanoplas­tics from teabags. Al­though the an­i­mals sur­vived, they did show some anatom­i­cal and be­havioural ab­nor­mal­i­ties, re­searchers said.

More re­search is needed to de­ter­mine if the plas­tics could have more sub­tle or chronic ef­fects on hu­mans, the re­searchers said.

Getty Im­ages/iS­tock­photo

A sin­gle plas­tic teabag re­leases about 11.6 bil­lion mi­croplas­tic and 3.1 bil­lion nanoplas­tic par­ti­cles into the wa­ter

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