Updated: Oct 12, 2018
I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed the other day (as one does) and saw a photo with a list of tea brands that were toxic posted in a holistic health group I'm in. The list stopped me dead in my tracks, and I was confused.
I saw Trader Joe's, Yogi tea, Teavana, Celestial Seasonings, basically any kind of tea I've ever had. I didn't know what the source of this photo was (plus I didn't want to find out that I couldn't drink all my fave teas) so I told myself I would do more research on this another day. I hoped it was just a hoax.
Then I was shopping at Trader Joe's and picked up some tea. Now that I had this awareness of the potential for this tea to actually be toxic, it was too hard to ignore! I knew it was time to do the research and see what this all really meant.
It turns out the best branded teas are actually full of toxins and cheap materials, and there is plenty of research and evidence of this out there.
Here is the photo I saw with the article it's linked from:
Cheap Tea Contains Fluoride and Pesticides
There are multiple components to the toxicity factor. The main toxic aspect of toxicity are the pesticides in the tea. Conventional tea brands have been shown to contain high levels of toxic substances such as fluoride and pesticides, artificial ingredients, added flavors and GMOs (modified corn starch and soy lecithin).
The levels found in these products are so high that they are considered unsafe for consumption.
So even when I was drinking tea (to be healthier than drinking coffee), it was the equivalent of eating junk food.
According to Healthy-Holistic-Living, here's how the pesticides get in the tea:
"Most teas are not washed before being dried, thus non-organic teas contain pesticide residues. Some tea brands (even those claimed organic or pesticide free!) have recently been found to contain pesticides that are known carcinogens – in quantities above the US and EU limits! A new study published in the journal of, Food Research International, found that cheaper blends contain enough fluoride to put people under the risk of many illnesses such as bone tooth, kidney problems and even cancer.
In fact, some brands of cheap tea contain nearly 7 parts per million (ppm) and the allowed level of fluoride is 4 ppm. This is quite scary since fluoride gets into your bones and accumulates in your body. It stays there for years."
ELuxe Magazine discloses the adverse affects of fluoride in our tea "By now, most of us are aware that fluoride can seriously damage our health – it causes thyroid issues, bone and teeth problems, brain damage and arthritis, amongst many other health issues. That’s why it’s wise to avoid drinking any kind of water containing it, and even swapping to a toothpaste that doesn’t have it at all (the notion that fluoride can help prevent cavities is largely a myth)."
Check out Collective Evolution's article here, it shows in a study conducted by EuroFins (a worldwide analytic testing company) that 91% of Celestial Seasonings teas contained levels of pesticides that exceed the US federal limits. Considering all of the other toxins and poisons that the FDA lets slide by, this is very alarming.
You may be wondering how did fluoride get in tea!? The tea plant accumulates fluoride as it grows. This means that old leaves contain the most fluoride. Cheaper quality teas are often made from old leaves that contain more fluoride than young tea leaves. White tea is known to have less fluoride since it is from young tea leaves.
Popular tea brands often get away with listing “natural flavors” as an ingredient, causing many consumers to think they are buying better, cleaner ingredients. But there is a whole list of what “natural flavors” could mean. We know that natural flavoring is a very loose term, especially in the food and cosmetic industries, it's not regulated or policed.
The umbrella term “natural flavoring,” can apply to any ingredient that comes from a natural origin. So, additives such as: Castoreum (a chemical taken out of glands from a beaver that are located near the anus) and Carmine aka Natural Red #4 (made from dried and ground up Cochina beetles) gives foods a red color.
Gross and not okay for vegans (or anyone, really) for that matter!
Take David's Tea -another one of my faves :( - according to Eco Yogini, "Unfortunately, added flavorings hide several ingredients (some petrochemical in origin) that companies are not forced to reveal. Similar to perfume companies (check out my toxic perfume blog here) as a type of 'trade secret' to protect from other companies copying their scent (or in this case, taste). Artificial flavors can be made from some sketchy chemicals and we all know how fantastic the FDA is at policing additives stamping new ingredients with the 'safe' stamp of approval (read: terrible)."
The Tea Bag Itself
Tea bags have been found to be bleached, and the fancier shaped 'mesh' like ones are made of plastic. Those fancy ones are actually made from plastic, either polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polylactic acid (PLA, or “corn plastic”) or food-grade nylon (indeed, nylon is a plastic). You are essentially adding the heat element to the product which is leaching toxins into the tea.
Most paper tea bags are made from a kind of paper made of cellulose and cotton –which is one of the most chemically sprayed crops. Many of these paper bags are also treated with a compound called epichlorohydrin, which is used to produce epoxy resins and acts as a pesticide! The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) labels it a potential carcinogen, and it’s been shown to cause cancer in animals, impair fertility, and suppress immune function.
According to Eluxe Magazine, "Most tea bags are impregnated with special synthetic resins dissolved in alcohol or acetone. After being soaked in these chemicals, the filter paper becomes more resistant to mechanical, thermal and climatic influences: in other words, the paper is made so strong, acidic lemon juice, hot water and enthusiastic stirring can’t even break them. And guess what? Those ‘indestructible’ tea bags don’t biodegrade very quickly either, causing even more pollution for our poor planet."
There's a bit of a blow that comes with being told your daily tea habit is full of poison, so how do you continue to drink tea in a safe and clean way? I know it feels like this is just one more thing to add to the list of ever growing toxic awareness of our food, it's now more important than ever to inform ourselves and vote with our dollar. Don't give these companies any of your money, which in turn funds this unethical production.
There are specific steps to make sure your tea is safe, and some reputable brands out there that are doing the right thing.
How to Choose Your Tea
You're now informed, which is the good news! Here's how to choose your tea:
Make sure it's organic and choose a non-GMO certified brand of tea. (Check the list of brands below)
Check the ingredient list to make sure there are no added flavors or GMO ingredients added to the tea leaves.
Most restaurants use tea brands that are known to be full of pesticides, so bring your own tea with you and ask them for hot water.
Make sure the brand you buy uses a safe form of packaging material or buy loose leaf tea and use a stainless steel or glass tea strainer (not plastic!). Have the company verify that bags do not contain epichlorophydrin, and avoid plastic tea bags all together. (Numi and Traditional Medicinals) are some of the only brands this category because they have publicly stated they do not use this harmful ingredient or GMO packaging and are Non-GMO Project verified.)
Delicious tea brands that are safe: organic, non-GMO, no added flavors, clean packaging and pesticide free (I already use Runa, and I'm making the switch to the rest of them now!)
Please share this with any of your tea-loving friends so we can spread the word on this!