Some snazzy teas come in plastic, rather than paper, tea bags. Skip 'em.

When Canadian researchers steeped empty plastic tea bags in water heated to almost boiling for five minutes, each cup of the water ended up with an estimated 11.6 billion microplastic and 3.1 billion nanoplastic particles. Yikes.

Most of the particles were nylon and polyethylene terephthalate.

When the scientists concentrated the tea bag water and allowed Daphnia magna—a tiny transparent crustacean used to gauge the harm of toxic chemicals—to swim in it for 48 hours, the crustaceans developed anatomical abnormalities and unusual swimming behavior.

What to do

Though no studies on plastic tea bags have been done in humans, the plastic could potentially raise the risk of cancer or other harms, say the authors.

So why buy plastic when you can use ordinary paper tea bags or a reusable metal infuser for loose-leaf tea?

What's in major brands of tea bags?

In 2021, we asked a number of major tea companies whether or not their tea bags are made with plastic. The answers we received:

  • Teavana said that its store-bought tea bags are made out of plastic.
  • Celestial Seasonings, Tazo, and Lipton said that their tea bags are mostly paper with some plastic added.
  • Yogi, Numi, Traditional Medicinals, Republic of Tea, and Stash said that their tea bags are made without plastic.

Photo: Victoria M/