I'm a tea drinker. On an average day, I steep three cups of tea per day. Often, I'll reuse the tea bags because they still have plenty of juice left, and re-use minimizes the levels of caffeine I'm getting (I get jittery quickly).
So, I was pretty shocked during a lunch when I learned that many tea bags are made of plastic. "Plastic?!", I said. No. No, no. Here I am avoiding drinking water at this lunch, despite my thirst, because the water is served in plastic. And I've been steeping my tea in potentially plastic tea bags?? It rang with truth, as I thought back to recent changes in the material in the tea bags I'd been using.
Plus, the info was coming from a reliable source - Pete Myers, author of Our Stolen Future, and whose primary research is on the health impacts of endocrine disruption.
As my shock wore off, I felt like this was something I would need to write about, and share and disseminate, to all my tea-loving friends.
So, here are a couple tips:
1. Steer clear of pyramid-style, or mesh, tea bags. These are usually made with PET (polyethylene terephthalate) or nylon. Now, these are among the safer plastics and have relatively high melting points. But, sadly, plastics begin to break down before their breaking point. While these materials may be food-grade and used in other items like water bottles, studies have shown that these items may also leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals, even without any heat involved that would accelerate leaching. And, when I'm double-using those tea bags? I may be getting even higher exposure to the plastic on the second go round :(
2. Best steer clear of the paper tea bags too. It is possible that many paper tea bags are treated with a carcinogen called epichlorohydrin. There are multiple sources claiming that tea bags contain epichlorohydrin on the internet but I have not been able to find the research backing this up, so take it with a hearty grain of salt!
3. Save money, and reduce chemical exposure, with tea strainers. We've got a couple options recommended below.
1. Are tea bags turning us into plastic? The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/04/are-tea-bags-turning-us-into-plastic/274482/
2. Wagner, M. and J. Oehlmann. 2009. Endocrine Disruptors in Bottled Mineral Water: Total Estrogenic Burden and Migration from Plastic Bottles. Environmental Science and Pollution Research 16.
3. Mercola. Plastic and Cancerous Compounds in Tea Bags—A Surprising Source of Potential Toxins
4. Raloff, Janet. Bottled water may contain ‘hormones’: Plastics. Science News. https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/science-public/bottled-water-may-contain-%E2%80%98hormones%E2%80%99-plastics