If you enjoy sipping a hot cup of tea, you’re not alone. Tea has a long history of being enjoyed for its pleasing taste and aroma. Not only is tea a tasty drink to enjoy, the health benefits are being increasingly recognized. The catechin polyphenols found in green and white teas, are being studied for their potential to not only reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases, but also as a metabolism booster. While a cup of black, white, or green tea provides a healthy alternative to soft drinks, there may be good reason to brew your next cup of tea from loose leaf tea leaves rather than tea bags. Why? It appears that the paper used in the manufacture of commercial tea bags may be a source of a cancer-causing chemical known as epichlorohydrin.
The Potential Toxicity of Tea Bags
Many people choose to brew their own tea from loose-leaf tealeaves simply because it produces a better tasting cup of tea. The tealeaves packed into commercial tea bags are usually tea fragments and dustings of inferior quality and produce a cup of tea that lacks the full-bodied taste of tea produced from loose leaves. Not only is the taste compromised when tea bags are used, but the health benefits may be reduced by the toxicity of the bag itself.
Many tea bags made of paper are manufactured with a chemical known as epichlorohydrin, a compound used in the manufacture of plastics and used as an insecticide. When this chemical comes into contact with water it forms a chemical called 3-MCPD, a known cancer-causing agent. Not only is epichlorohydrin found in paper tea bags, it’s also used in the manufacture of paper coffee filters. While this chemical in and of itself is troubling, when it comes into contact with water as when steeping tea, it becomes of even greater concern because of the cancer causing 3-MCPD it produces.
How to Avoid Epichlorohydrin
While not all tea bags made of paper contain epichlorohydrin, many of them do. The best way to find out if your particular brand of tea uses tea bags manufactured with epichlorohydrin is to call and ask. One tea company that states that they don’t is Bigelow Tea Company. Hopefully, in the future, other tea manufacturers will also eliminate this harmful chemical from their tea bags so that the health benefits of tea can be enjoyed without exposure to cancer causing chemicals. Until then, it may be best to enjoy tea in its loose-leaf form.