I have always been interested in healthy eating. What certain foods are good for, how to slim, how to have a healthy gut, how to get energy, good skin, nice hair and so on. I don’t always do it though of course, I go through phases of not eating so healthily like most people – I have a very unhealthy penchant for all things sugary! But one thing I always felt comfortable with was my tea drinking habit…
Tea has always had a good name – black tea contains antioxidants that fight free radicals (which attack skin cells). Tea has less caffeine than coffee but gives you that caffeine kick anyway. Tea is calming and great for an upset tummy. It’s our national drink! And it’s even good to help you sleep if you buy some of the herbal varieties.
So imagine my shock when I discovered recently that most teabags contain…. PLASTIC!!!! How did I find this out? I was chatting to someone from an ethical tea company the other week and they pointed out to me that one of the things that made their teabags special and even more ethical was that there was no PLASTIC in the teabags! After the initial double-take – Plastic? In teabags? – I asked her to explain. She said that all teabags contain a small amount of plastic in order to keep the bags intact (It is often used as a sealant). (They had also opted to not have a string with a tag like many ‘special’ tea brands like this, of course, is unnecessary and causes more pollution…). On googling this I found that more or less ALL high street teabags did indeed contain a tiny bit of plastic – which I assume we then ingest! Even some of the so-called ethical or eco-friendly ones did too…. I must admit this was a revelation to me but in retrospect, I realised it wasn’t surprising at all really, just disappointing.
The good news though is that this is currently being addressed and quite a few well-known teabag manufacturers are looking into replacement sealants for the bags…. But the problem itself is huge. Apparently, teabags account for 96% of the 165 million cups of tea drunk in the UK each day. We thought all we had to do to be healthy was look at organic tea and also perhaps unbleached teabags (why on earth are they bleached at all?)… but no, the problem is much deeper, we are ingesting plastic in a lot of our every day food and drink. We consumers could, of course, avoid the plastic in teabags by using loose tea, or greener options like teabags made from corn starch, but I guess you have to know the problem is there to start with, and of course, the healthier options cost more….
Add to this that Teabag manufacturers are now threatening that removing the plastic from teabags and finding an alternative sealant will make the bags much more expensive – but it wasn’t that long ago we were all using tea leaves which we brewed ourselves and strained over the cup, or had a metal container for putting tea in and hooking inside your cup..… But who encouraged us to use teabags in the first place? The people manufacturing them, of course, they created the problem; it wasn’t like we were marching and demanding teabags rather than teapots! We’d never even heard of them before they appeared on the market. Once again we were sold a new idea that was supposed to save us time and be somehow ‘better’ but turned out to be a lie and in fact bad for us. And yet again to return to a more natural or traditional way for health reasons is going to cost us a lot more money. Has it occurred to teabag manufacturers that we could have just stuck with our good old tea leaves in the first place?
The problem doesn’t stop at tea of course. Fish are ingesting plastic in the seas and rivers and this is being passed on to us in the food chain. It also reaches meat because a lot of fish products are fed to chickens and other farm animals that end up on our plates. And even those readymade meals, including the vegetarian options, that are covered in plastic wrap – guess what?… when you put them in a microwave or oven the plastic leeches into the food. The best thing to do would be to remove all packaging and decant them into an oven dish although that does rather spoil the idea of quick, ready to go food. In fact, it seems to me that just about every type of food or drink that is packaged as convenience or time saving is wrapped in some type of plastic, and that plastic will work its way into the product itself, and then into our bodies.
Plastic bottles of water – remember when the whole bottled water thing became huge? That bottled water was healthier… but now we know that water left lying in plastic bottles for months on end (storerooms etc), especially in sunlight, contains plastic – 90% of bottled water contains micro plastics – twice that of ordinary tap H2O. One of the most common ways for It to get into the water is via the plastic caps! So that’s not just bottled water of course, it’s ALL drinks in plastic containers – coca cola, soft drinks, alcohol, medicines, even MILK cardboard containers are lined with two layers of a plastic derivative, and then, of course, there are the dishes you use to cook in and store food in including Clingfilm….!
Just stop for a moment and think about everything that touches your food and drink and what it is contained in… It’s frightening really. We hardly notice most of it, in fact, if you spent a day making a note you would be shocked, from your pizza to your takeaway coffee to the wrapping on your veg, salt, sugar, honey…… beer…!
So – does the plastic definitely make its way into our bodies and is it bad for us? Personally, I don’t want to ingest plastic full stop but I had a look at some info anyway – the results on some forms of plastics are still not in (of course they aren’t! ) but many of the derivatives and chemicals from plastic are considered harmful to health.
Here are some of the apparent possible side effects of ingesting plastic regularly (and I quote from a report by The Ecology Centre): cancer, birth defects, genetic changes, bronchitis, ulcers, skin disease, deafness, vision problems, indigestion, liver dysfunction, immune deficiency, early onset puberty, obesity, diabetes, hyperactivity, irritation of eyes nose and throat, dizziness, unconsciousness, higher rates of lymphatic and various other cancers, breathing problems, and on and on…. And that’s what we know so far. Who knows what effects could come about down the generations…….
I’m not saying we are all going to get all these things of course, please don’t panic! But what does take my breath away and blow my mind is – how on earth did this happen and why was all this foisted on us without testing first? We are just human guinea pigs it seems to me, and the only way to deal with it is to take your health into your own hands and if you are not sure about something – don’t eat or drink it!
Of course, the whole ANTIplastic revolution is here now – and not before time – but the biggest IMMEDIATE danger I feel is not just to the planet but to the health of the human race as individuals and to the generations to come, born to us who are walking time bombs of plastic….
Now, one lump or two with your cup of plastic?