comscore Should you buy tea bags? | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Should you buy tea bags?

In 1902 two Milwaukee women applied for a patent for a one-cup, mesh “tea-leaf holder.” Four years later a U.S. tea importer began to send out samples in silk bags instead of tins. Folks plopped the whole thing into their teapot and loved the easy brewing technique. Those two events are credited with popularizing the tea bag.

Today, Americans consume 3.8 billion tons of tea annually. But news about the menace of the modern tea bag has a lot of you bagging your favorite beverage. Well, there’s no need — if you have the facts.


Plastic has become a common component of tea bags. So, tea-loving researchers from McGill University tested bags by removing the tea and then putting them in 203-degree water for five minutes. Turns out, a single bag released over 11 billion microplastic and 3 billion nanoplastic particles into the hot liquid.


Studies have found more than 90% of micro- and nanoplastics leave your body through excretion, but the effect of the remaining 1 billion-plus plastic particles and chemicals per tea bag isn’t clear. We do know ingested plastic has devastating health effects on marine animals.


1. Brew loose tea in unbleached paper or metal tea bombs.

2. Buy tea from companies whose websites say they use only hemp and/or other biodegradable materials in their bags (there are many).

3. Not sure? Cold-brew your tea bag (heat extracts more plastic particles), remove it and then heat the tea.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to

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