Wednesday’s Ask Dr. Walt — Can Chinese Tea Cause Lead Poisoning?

Dear Dr. Walt,

I drink tea all the time. But, I’ve heard that teas from China can be contaminated with lead and other heavy metals?

—Tea Drinker in Maryland

Dear Tea Totaller,

This is one of those rumors that has a modicum of truth in it; yet won’t affect the vast majority of folks. Let me explain.

Tealeaves, particularly from some regions of China contain substantial amounts of lead.

Contamination is most common in tea made from older leaves, as in black tea and Oolong tea, than from younger leaves used to make green tea.

However, the reason for little concern is that brewing with a filter that holds back the leaves or leaf particles, such as a tea bag, K-Cup, or fine strainer, significantly reduces the lead content of brewed teas to safe levels.

Nevertheless, ConsumerLab.com recommends, “In general, it would seem best not to swallow the leaf material in teas, unless you are confident of its purity.”