If you’re a regular here at Healthier Talk, you likely already know I’m a coffee fanatic. But lucky for me, unlike many habits, coffee drinking can actually deliver health BENEFITS.
I prefer my java with a dash of cream in it. One of those little half-and-half containers they give you on the side when you get one to go usually does the trick.
I ask them to hold the sugar and sweeteners because they can be harmful. But it turns out those cups of coffee are likely being served with a secret side of something else that’s far worse.
Scientists say that you could be gulping down a mouthful of microplastics with each sip from that paper cup. GROSS.
To-go coffee cups release microplastics
I’ve warned you before about these tiny plastic particles showing up in plastic water bottles. A non-profit organization released a report in 2018 that found 90 percent of the 250 plastic water bottles they tested contained the junk.
That means those plastics are ending up inside of US, too.
And another small study that same year confirmed it. In fact, when the researchers tested for it, 100 percent of the volunteers had microplastics in their stool.
Ninety-five percent of those tiny particles were traced back to the plastics used in food packaging and storage. This brings us to the new study published in the April 2022 issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
It turns out single-use paper coffee cups aren’t just bad for the environment. They could be bad for our HEALTH too. You see, to help prevent that delicious hot coffee from seeping right through the cup, manufacturers line them with a thin coating of plastic.
And when researchers tested the cups with hot liquids, that film released over 5 TRILLION itty-bitty plastic nanoparticles per liter of liquid.
Nanoplastics could be harming your health
Five trillion is a figure that’s already had to wrap your brain around. But it’s only the start.
When the scientists crunched the numbers for 13 to-go cups of delicious joe, they found that you will have gulped down a microplastic particle for every seven cells in your body.
And the jury is still out on precisely what those plastics are doing to our health.
As per usual, the Food and Drug Administration is turning a blind eye to the dangers. They say that despite the number of particles we’re swallowing in just a single cup of coffee being in the trillions, it still doesn’t exceed their “safe consumption levels.” But let’s be honest, how do we know the levels they set ARE safe?
The World Health Organization isn’t so sure. In 2019 the WHO called for further research into the health impacts of microplastics.
The truth is we don’t know how having these foreign substances in our bodies might be affecting our health. But what we DO know about plastics, in general, is plenty enough to raise some red flags.
For example, many plastics contain hormone-like chemicals. Your body can have a hard time telling these endocrine disrupters apart from the real thing. And it’s easy to see how that could lead to troubling health issues, from messing with sperm production to raising cancer-linked inflammation.
And then there are the phthalates used to make those plastics more durable. These chemicals may be linked to common diseases such as heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Other research has shown microplastics can enter the bloodstream, lymphatic system, lungs, and liver. Plus, other harmful pollutants may hitch a ride inside on these microplastics.
Cut back on your microplastic exposure
Unfortunately, you can’t totally avoid being exposed to these creepy microplastics. After all, they’re turning up in everything from table salt to drinking water. They’re even in the AIR we breathe.
But you CAN do some things to reduce your exposure.
Cut back on plastics: Switch to a stainless steel, insulated, reusable cup for to-go drink orders. Most coffee shops and cafes are happy to serve your drink in one. Avoid heating or reheating foods in plastic containers and switch to glass or ceramic for storage and microwaving. And avoid synthetic clothing, which can shed plastic fibers.
Filter your water: Carbon, reverse osmosis, and distillation filters can remove all known microplastics from your drinking water. Just make sure that the filtration system you choose specifies that it removes microplastics and that they have independent test results to prove it. And avoid bottled waters.
Clean your air: Make sure your home is well ventilated. Vacuum frequently. And consider using a HEPA air purifier in your home and office in the room or rooms you spend the most time in. I personally like Blueair purifiers, which the manufacturer says can remove smaller particles than many other HEPA systems.
For the time being, microplastics are here to stay. But these steps can help reduce the amount of them riding around in your body and potentially your risks too.
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