Microscopy & Microtechniques

  • Scientists Find Microscopic Plastic Particles in Tea

Scientists Find Microscopic Plastic Particles in Tea

Nov 03 2019 Read 774 Times

For many people, drinking tea is a daily ritual. Though according to new research from the American Chemical Society, manufacturers making the switch from paper to plastic teabags are subjecting tea drinkers to an unintended dose of micro plastics. While the health effects are unknown, experts warn that ingesting plastic particles could have a harmful impact on the digestive system, as well as the natural environment, water sources and the global food chain.

"The increasing presence of micro- and nano-sized plastics in the environment and food chain is of growing concern," reads the abstract.

Electron microscopy reveals billions of micro and nano plastic particles

Nathalie Tufenkji, a researcher at the Department of Chemical Engineering at McGill University in Montreal, warns that during the brewing process, plastic breaks down into tiny micro and nano particles that are released into tea. To prove the hypothesis, Tufenkji and her colleagues brewed four brands of commercial tea packed in plastic teabags. Tea leaves were removed, with the plastic bags then rinsed and immersed in hot water to simulate the brewing process. Using electron microscopy, the researchers noted that when brewed at temperatures of 95 °C, a single plastic teabag released more than 11 billion microplastic particles and three billion nanoplastic particles into the water.

The team used advanced Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) to match the particles found in the water to plastics used to manufacture the teabags, including nylon and polyethylene terephthalate.

Plastic teabags targeted for adverse impact on human health and the environment

To investigate the health impacts of ingesting micro and nano plastics, the team exposed water fleas to the contaminated H2O. While the insects survived, the researchers did note anatomical and behavioural complications.

Over the past few years, micro and nano plastics have emerged as a major concern for environmentalists. Pollution is caused largely by single-use plastics like shopping bags, toothbrushes, disposable containers and other items that take hundreds of years to break down and release micro and nano plastics during the process. Every year, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warns an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic is released into the ocean and poses a serious threat to marine species and overall oceanic health. While micro and nano plastics can't necessarily be seen, the dangers are very real.  

Want to know more about the state-of-the-art equipment used in laboratories around the world? Spotlighting internationally renowned optical expert Zeiss, 'Surveying Sites for Electron Microscopes' explores how sophisticated surveying equipment is used to inspect sites prior to system installation.

Reader comments

Do you like or dislike what you have read? Why not post a comment to tell others / the manufacturer and our Editor what you think. To leave comments please complete the form below. Providing the content is approved, your comment will be on screen in less than 24 hours. Leaving comments on product information and articles can assist with future editorial and article content. Post questions, thoughts or simply whether you like the content.

Post a Comment




Digital Edition

Lab Asia December 2019

December 2019

In This Edition Mass Spectrometry & Spectroscopy - Translating Proteomic MALDi Tissue Typing to Clinical Pathology - Fusion Protein Complexes Analysed by CG-MALS - Non-equivalent, Multivalen...

View all digital editions

Events

SLAS 2020

Jan 25 2020 San Diego, CA, USA

Arab Health

Jan 27 2020 Dubai, UAE

Nano Tech 2020

Jan 29 2020 Tokyo, Japan

HTC-16

Jan 29 2020 Ghent, Belgium

MEDLAB MIDDLE EAST

Feb 03 2020 Dubai, UAE

View all events