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. To conduct their analysis, the researchers purchased four different commercial teas packaged in plastic teabags.
They cut open the bags, removed the tea leaves and washed the empty bags.
Then, they heated the teabags in containers of 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 behavioral abnormalities, researchers said.
More research is needed to determine if the plastics could have more subtle or chronic effects on humans, they said.