Last Updated on November 27, 2020 by monica chan
A new study suggests drinking from disposable cups could lead to an increased risk of cancer. The research has been widely referred to in the media, but its source was rarely posted.
It seems to have come from a legitimate study carried out by some Indian researchers, and the full document can be found here.
Disposable paper cups contain thousands of microplastic particles in a plastic lining which gives them their waterproof properties.
Study lead author, Dr Sudha Goel found, in the 15 minutes it takes for a hot drink to be consumed, the microplastic layer degrades releasing 25,000 microplastic particles into the drink.
An average person drinks approximately 3 cups of tea or coffee a day from a paper cup, meaning you would end up consuming 75,000 microplastic particles that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Researchers in India tested the paper cups by pouring filtered water at 85-90 degrees celsius into them and left them for 15 minutes to test physical, chemical, and mechanical properties. The liquid was then analysed under the microscope.
Along with discovering microplastics in the water from the degradation of the plastic lining, they also discovered the presence of heavy metals in the lining too.
In their findings, a disposable paper cup when exposed to hot liquids for 15 minutes will contain approximately 10.2 billion submicron sized particles.
These results are worrying as recent research has shown there maybe a link between consuming microplastics and cancer, even infertility.
Due to the plastic lining on the paper cups, they leave behind thin plastics that contaminate the environment. They do not decompose and cannot be fully recycled, therefore adding to landfill.
Experts recommend swapping to a reuseable cup, with many on offer at coffee shops.
It is understandable besides the environmentally friendly reasons for using a reusable cup, they are not as convenient as the standard disposable cups.
Ecolife is researching non-plastic, plant-based films that can coat paper cups which are also biodegradable, but they are twice as costly.
Disposable cups reported in this research were manufactured for the Indian market.
The Paper Cup Alliance said,
Paper cups manufactured in the UK and EU meet the most stringent health, safety and food hygiene regulations, keeping customers safe.
Paper cups manufactured and used in the UK do not use HDPE or co-polymers of cellulose, which were used in the cups sampled in India.
Consumers can be confident that their cups from UK high street coffee shops are 100% safe, hygienic and recyclable.