When working on my article on organic tea
, I came across an interesting and very relevant study which I used to guide some of the discussion in that article. It's titled Leaching of Pesticides in Tea Brew
. I'm not sure if that link is public access...I think it's not, but it's a fascinating read if anyone can get access.
There's a wide range of the degree and rate to which pesticides are extracted in tea infusions.
Some pesticides are essentially "non-extractable" in water, which is actually a good thing: it means that even if they are present in the tea leaf in potentially harmful quantities, unless you actually eat the leaf, you're not going to be exposed to appreciable amounts of it.
The pesticides that are more water soluble are actually more of a concern. You're probably not going to leach most of them out if you discard a single brewing of the tea: most of them diffuse relatively slowly and longer steeping times result in more extraction, just like flavor, caffeine, and other chemicals in tea.
Pesticides in tea ARE a matter of concern as these studies show. And, as I uncovered in writing the article on organic tea, the organic label does not guarantee that tea is free of pesticides. A 2009 news article, Pesticides found in organic tea
, demonstrates this.
This is a real issue of concern. It's important to talk about it and it's important to test for pesticides and crack down on abuses of this system. And my honest opinion? I would prefer that we just outright stop using all synthetic pesticides. I think humankind would be better off without all that synthetic junk. We made it for thousands of years without it and we didn't have the sky-high cancer rates we face nowadays. You can say it's moving "backwards" but if that's what's required to keep our environment and food supply clean and safe, I say it's worth going "backwards" to do it.