Plastic teabags release billions of tiny particles, a much higher amount than other types of food packaging, according to a new study.
A teabag put in near-boiling water produces about 11.6 billion microplastic granules and 3.1 billion even smaller nanoplastics, which are invisible to the human eye, researchers from McGill University said. The study was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
In a separate report, the World Health Organization said in August that tiny pieces of plastic from discarded bottles, bags and lotions permeate water around the world. More study is needed to determine whether they pose human health risks, it said.
Microplastics may arise from the erosion of larger plastic debris, which poses its own risks to marine life, or come in the form of tiny beads found in health and beauty products, like exfoliating creams or toothpaste. Studies have detected microplastics in more than 80% of global freshwater sources, municipal tap water and bottled water. Food and air also contain the particles.
Governments around the world have already stepped up action to reduce plastic in the environment, from banning drinking straws to imposing fees on supermarket bags. The European Union has considered restricting the use of some common microplastics in make-up and cleaning products.