Health and Disease

HWA-Plastic Compounds in Tea Bags: Source of Potential Toxins

 

Plastic Compounds in Tea Bags: Source of Potential Toxins

 

I’ve long advocated drinking tea in lieu of coffee, but the downside of modern food technology is again rearing its ugly head and causing brand new health concerns over this otherwise healthful brew.

A recent article in The Atlantic raises questions about the safety of plastic tea bags, some of which have fancy pyramid shapes, designed to allow the tea leaves to unfurl during infusion.

Chances are you’ve never even given the tea bag a second thought. But indeed, some of the newer tea bags are made with a variety of plastics; some are nylon, some are made of viscose rayon, and others are made of thermoplastic, PVC or polypropylene.

Anyone aware of the dangers of plastic chemicals leaching out of plastic containers and bottles is likely to be concerned about drinking tea steeped through heated plastic.

The other bad news is that paper tea bags may be just as bad, or worse, than the plastic ones because many of them are treated with epichlorohydrin, a compound mainly used in the production of epoxy resins.

Considered a potential carcinogen by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health2 (NIOSH), epichlorohydrin is also used as a pesticide. Besides making its way into tea bags, it can also be found in coffee filters, water filters, and sausage casings.

When epichlorohydrin comes in contact with water, it hydrolyzes to 3-MCPD, which has been shown to cause cancer in animals. It’s also been implicated in infertility (it has a spermatoxic effect in male rats3) and suppressed immune function.

This chemical is already a well-known “process contaminant” associated with modern food production. According to the American Oil Chemicals Society5 (AOCS), 3-MCPD can also be found in variable levels in refined vegetable oils, which is yet another reason to avoid such cooking oils and replace them with organic coconut oil.

Do Plastic Tea Bags Pose a Health Concern?
As you probably know, chemicals in plastic containers and bottles have been found to leach into food and drink, thereby posing a number of health hazards. Examples include bisphenol-A (BPA), bisphenol-S (BPS), and phthalates, all of which mimic hormones and act as potent endocrine disruptors.

Unfortunately, according to the featured article, neither the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have any information on the toxicity of plastic tea bags or the levels of plastic chemicals that might migrate into the tea when steeped in hot water. Hard to believe, but true, the US federal agencies are not supervising this potential toxic exposure.

According to the featured article:

“Could plastic tea bags also be bad for our health? They are most commonly made from food grade nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which are two of the safest plastics on the scale of harmful leaching potential.

Both have very high melting points, which offer some assurance to consumers, as one would think the melting point of plastic is the temperature at which one would need to worry about accidentally eating it.

There is another temperature point for plastics, though, that we may need to worry about, called the ‘glass transition’ temperature (Tg). That is the temperature at which the molecule in certain materials such as polymers begin to break down. As a rule, the Tg of a material is always lower than the melting point.”

Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius). In the case of PET the glass transition point (Tg) is about 169 degrees, and the breakdown point of nylon is even lower than PET.

“If the question is, ‘As the polymer goes through that transition state, is it easier for something to leach out?’ ‘the answer is yes,’ said Dr. Ray Fernando, professor and director of polymers and coatings at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo,” The Atlantic states.

So while these plastics are generally considered among the safest in terms of leaching potential, the molecules in these plastic tea bags may still in fact break down and leach out when steeped in boiling water—which is the recommended way to brew a good cup of tea, especially when you’re using higher quality whole tea leaves, which these newer tea bags are designed for…

Paper Tea Bags May Be Just as Bad, or Worse…
The now defunct Dexter Corporation was the initial owner on the patent6 of a method for treating both tea bags and coffee filters with latex (plastic), to aid in preventing tears that allow the tea leaves/coffee grounds to leak. This invention “saturates and completely impregnates” the entire web material. Therein lies one of the problems with paper tea bags as they are frequently treated with epichlorohydrin, which hydrolyzes to the carcinogen 3-MCPD when contact with water occurs.

Dow Chemical Co is one of the largest producers of epichlorohydrin. According to safety literature7 from Dow, it’s a very dangerous chemical that requires using extra precautions when handling. Granted, that doesn’t automatically render it dangerous in the final product, but it can still be a cause for concern, particularly as it can turn into a carcinogen when water is added. There are many unanswered questions with respect to the potential hazards of using this chemical in products specifically designed to be used with boiling water…

A good way to protect yourself and your family in this area is to purchase your tea from manufacturers who can certify that their tea bags do not contain this compound. Organic India, for example, has sent me a confirmation that the paper used for their tea bags does not contain epichlorohydrin. In a 2009 article, Kristie Leong, MD also claims to have done her own inquiries and that Bigelow Tea Company does not use the chemical in their bags8. Many plastic tea bags are advertised as “silky” or “mesh bags,” or they’ll have fancy shapes or oversized bags. I’d suggest avoiding those as well if you want to be on the safe side.

Your best option would be to opt for loose tea. This does take longer, but it can be well worth the wait. One of my favorite teas is Royal Matcha Green Tea, which has one of the highest levels of the potent antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Unlike other teas which you steep and strain, matcha tea is a powder made from ground green tea leaves. You add the powder right into the water. You are consuming the whole leaf, which makes matcha one of the healthiest green teas available. Another excellent option is loose Tulsi tea leaves. This well-known Ayurvedic herb is also full of antioxidants that fight free radicals in your body and prevent oxidation damage.

 

How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Tea
There is an art to brewing tea using loose tea leaves, but once you find your “sweet spot” you may never go back to bagged tea again. Here are a few simple guidelines for making the “perfect” cup of tea:

It is known by all that tea has to have that amount of properties highly for our health.  Today we will talk about the benefits of a particular type of tea: White tea.  In addition to its mild and sweet taste, white tea has a lot of beneficial properties for the body and mind.Bring water to a boil in a tea kettle (avoid using a non-stick pot, as they too can release harmful chemicals when heated)
Preheat your tea pot or cup to prevent the water from cooling too quickly when transferred. Simply add a small amount of boiling water to the pot or tea cup that you’re going to steep the tea in. Ceramic and porcelain retain heat well. Then cover the pot or cup with a lid. Add a tea cozy if you have one, or drape with a towel. Let stand until warm, then pour out the water
Put the tea into an infuser, strainer, or add loose into the tea pot. Steeping without an infuser or strainer will produce a more flavorful tea. Start with one heaped teaspoon per cup of tea, or follow the instructions on the tea package. The robustness of the flavor can be tweaked by using more or less tea
Add boiling water. Use the correct amount for the amount of tea you added (i.e. for four teaspoons of tea, add four cups of water). The ideal water temperature varies based on the type of tea being steeped:
White or green teas (full leaf): Well below boiling (170-185 F or 76-85 C). Once the water has been brought to a boil, remove from heat and let the water cool for about 30 seconds for white tea and 60 seconds for green tea before pouring it over the leaves
Oolongs (full leaf): 185-210 F or 85-98 C
Black teas (full leaf) and Pu-erhs: Full rolling boil (212 F or 100 C)
Cover the pot with a cozy and let steep. Follow steeping instructions on the package. If there are none, here are some general steeping guidelines. Taste frequently as you want it to be flavorful but not bitter:
Oolong teas: 4-7 minutes
Black teas: 3-5 minutes
Green teas: 2-3 minutes
Once desired flavor has been achieved you need to remove the strainer or infuser. If using loose leaves, pour the tea through a strainer into your cup and any leftover into another vessel (cover with a cozy to retain heat)
After Water, Tea is One of Your Healthiest Beverage Choices
While some tea bags—whether plastic or paper processed with epichlorohydrin—may pose a potential hazard, please don’t let that deter you from drinking tea altogether. Although I still believe pure water should make up the majority of your daily fluid intake, high-quality tea has numerous health benefits to offer. Among them is growing evidence that the polyphenols in tea, which include EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) and many others, can be protective against cancer. For example, the polyphenols in green tea appear to be even more effective at fighting the progression of cancer than the antioxidants found in red wine and grapes. Beyond this, the beneficial properties in tea have been known to:

Neutralize the effects to your body of harmful fats and oils
Inhibit bacteria and viruses
Improve digestion
Protect against oxidation in your brain and liver
Help promote healthy gums
Drinking tea has also been linked to:

Improved mental alertness and slowing of brain-cell degeneration Reduced blood pressure Protection again type 2 diabetes
Lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels Lower risk of breast, colon, lung, ovarian and prostate cancers Reduced risk of heart attack and stroke

Of course, there are some general ground rules to follow when selecting tea of any kind, and those are that it should preferably be:

Organic (otherwise tea may be heavily sprayed with pesticides)
Grown in a pristine environment (tea is known to accumulate fluoride, heavy metals and other toxins from soil and water, so a clean growing environment is essential to producing a pure, high-quality tea)
So keep these tips in mind, and go ahead and enjoy a cup or two of your favorite variety. I personally prefer Matcha tea, a vibrant bright green tea made of tea leaves ground into a powder, and Tulsi tea, which is a powerful adaptogenic herb that provides important therapeutic benefits.

 

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Pets, Uncategorized

Smelling These Plants Could Kill Your Pet

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Just Sniffing This Poisonous Plant Could Be Deadly to Your Pet

 

Many pets like to nibble on plants. If yours is among them, it’s incredibly important to check your home and yard for the presence of poisonous varieties. Many common ornamental houseplants and backyard plants can cause illness in pets, ranging from mild nausea to death.

 

In fact, of the approximately 150,000 calls to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal’s (ASPCA) Poison Control hotline, about one-quarter of the poisonings related to non-drug products are due to plants.1

 

It’s virtually impossible to keep tabs on your pet 24/7, so even if you think he doesn’t chew or nibble on plants, there’s a chance he may do so when you’re not looking. And in some cases, such as lilies and cats, even getting the pollen on their nose or drinking the water in the vase can be deadly.2

 

It’s best to err on the side of caution when it comes to your pet’s health, so get rid of any potentially poisonous plants before an accident happens.

 

12 Plants That Are Poisonous to Pets

 

The examples that follow are not an all-inclusive list, but they do represent some of the most common plants that pose a poisoning risk to pets.3 To see photos and get even more details, see the infographic below.

 

Symptoms of ingesting a poisonous plant vary but may include vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, loss of appetite, foaming at the mouth, organ failure and more.

 

  1. Castor Bean

 

Also known as castor oil plant, mole bean plant, and African wonder tree, this plant is very toxic to dogs, cats and horses. The beans are especially dangerous because they contain ricin, a toxic compound that inhibits protein synthesis. The entire plant is poisonous, however.

 

Consuming as little as 1 ounce of seeds can be deadly. Symptoms may develop 12 to 48 hours after ingestion and include loss of appetite, excessive thirst, weakness, loss of coordination, difficulty breathing and central nervous system depression.

 

As symptoms progress, bloody diarrhea, convulsions, coma and death may also occur.

 

  1. Caladium

 

Also known as malanga, elephant’s ears, stoplight, mother-in-law plant, Texas wonder, angel wings and pink cloud, this plant contain insoluble calcium oxalates that are toxic to dogs and cats.

 

Symptoms of ingestion include intense burning and irritation of the mouth, excessive drooling, vomiting and difficulty swallowing.

 

  1. Lilies

 

Lilies are highly toxic to cats. This includes many varieties, including day lilies, Easter lilies, tiger lilies, Asiatic lilies and more.

 

Consuming small amounts of any part of this plant can lead to death from kidney failure in cats. Symptoms include vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, diarrhea, depression, kidney failure and death.

 

  1. Dumb Cane

 

Also known as charming dieffenbachia, tropic snow and exotica, this foliage contains insoluble calcium oxalates that are toxic to dogs and cats.

 

Ingesting this plant leads to intense irritation of the mouth, tongue and lips along with vomiting and difficulty swallowing. Contact with the sap of this plant can also cause irritation and damage to the eyes.

 

  1. Rosary Pea

 

This plant goes by many names, including precatory bean, Buddhist rosary bead, love bean, lucky bean, Indian licorice, prayer bean and weather plant. Toxic compounds called abrin and abric acid in the beans are dangerous to dogs, cats and horses.

 

Consuming even one rosary pea can be deadly, but fortunately the seed’s hard outer coat must be damaged (crushed or cut open) to cause harm. So in many cases ingesting the seeds may lead to only mild illness.

 

However, if a broken pea is ingested, it can lead to severe vomiting and diarrhea (sometimes bloody), tremors, high heart rate, shock, fever and death.

 

  1. Larkspur

 

Larkspur contains compounds called diterpene alkaloids that are toxic to dogs, cats and horses. It’s thought the toxicity of this plant varies depending on the conditions in which it’s grown and becomes less toxic as it matures.

 

If consumed, larkspur can cause neuromuscular paralysis and symptoms such as muscle tremors, stiffness, weakness, convulsions, heart failure and death from respiratory paralysis.

 

  1. Foxglove

 

Foxglove contains cardiac glycosides that are toxic to dogs, cats and horses. Consuming this plant can lead to cardiac arrhythmias, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, heart failure and death.

 

  1. Autumn Crocus

 

Also known as meadow saffron, autumn crocus contains colchicine and other alkaloids that are toxic to dogs, cats and horses. If your pet consumes it, this may lead to oral irritation, bloody vomiting, diarrhea, shock, organ damage and bone marrow suppression.

 

  1. Sago Palm

 

This popular plant, also known as coontie palm, cardboard palm, cycads and zamias contain toxic cyasin. It’s toxic to dogs, cats and horses and may lead to symptoms including vomiting, jaundice, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, bruising, liver damage, liver failure and death.

 

  1. Black Locust

 

The entire black locust tree, especially the bark and shoots, is toxic to cats and dogs. If consumed, it can cause kidney failure, weakness, nausea, depression and death.

 

  1. Yew

 

Yew, also known as Japanese yew, English yew and European yew, is toxic to dogs, cats and horses due to the taxine it contains. If consumed, this ornamental tree (including its bark, leaves and seeds) can lead to sudden death from heart failure.

 

Early signs of ingestion include muscular tremors, labored breathing and seizures in dogs. Even playing with the branches or sticks from the yew tree could be potentially deadly to dogs.

 

  1. Oleander

 

Oleander, or rose bay, contains cardiac glycosides that are toxic to dogs, cats and horses. Consume any part of the plant may lead to colic, diarrhea (possibly bloody), sweating, incoordination, difficulty breathing, muscle tremors and possibly death from heart failure.

 

Your pet may be poisoned from access to pruned or fallen branches while horses may be poisoned by consuming this ornamental plant new horse show arenas.

 

 

Seek Emergency Veterinary Care If Your Pet Eats a Poisonous Plant

 

If your dog or cat consumes a potentially poisonous plant, get your pet to an emergency veterinary clinic immediately. Prompt treatment may mean the difference between life and death. If you’re not sure whether the plant is poisonous, it’s best to seek medical attention just in case.

 

You can also consult the ASPCA’s database of toxic and non-toxic plants, which you can search to find out if the plant your pet consumed warrants a trip to the emergency vet. In addition, if your pet consumes a potentially toxic plant or any other poisonous substance, call your local veterinarian, emergency veterinary clinic or ASPCA’s 24-hour emergency poison hotline at 1-888-426-4435 to find out what next steps to take.

 

Please Share with Family and Loved Ones.

 

Health and Wellness Associates

Archived: Karen Becker

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