Sipping hot beverages from paper cups poses health risks, a study has found.

In the less than 15 minutes it takes for (hot) coffee or tea to be ingested the microplastic film on the cup decomposes and discharges 25,000 micron-sized particles into the scalding beverage. An assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kharagpur has found out.

So, an average person consuming three regular cups of tea or coffee on a daily basis in a paper cup would wind up with 75,000 tiny microplastic particles that are invisible to the naked eye.

A throw-away paper cup exposed to scalding liquid for 15 min will have something like approximately 10.2 billion submicron sized particles.

World-wide, some 264 billion paper cups were made in 2019 for consuming food and beverages such as tea, coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, and soups.

According to a study, consumers take recourse of paper cups because of chaotic lifestyles and wire-tight schedules. With the demand soaring by the spiralling trend of takeaway services and ready-to-eat food across the globe, paper cups are at a decisive advantage while not requiring any cleaning and can be easily relegated to the dustbin after use.

However, the IIT researchers say there is a heavy toll to be paid for the ultra-convenience. It goes as microplastics behave as carriers for microbes and ions, including toxic heavy metals such as palladium, chromium and cadmium. “When savored regularly over time, the health implications could be colossal.

A team poured ultra-pure (MilliQ) water at 85—90 degrees Celsius into paper cups and allowed it to simmer for 15 minutes before examining it under a fluorescence microscope for microplastics. The plastic seams were separately examined for alterations in physical, chemical, and mechanical properties.

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