Pesticides in Tea

Recently in the ‘New Daily’ online news media was a article about elevated levels of pesticides in most brand of tea.
Has choice looked at this issue?


The link given is a report of a report that was published in 2014 of a report that in in my browser it s no longer available. It’s hard to say what significance it may have had or even who the authors were.


The other things to consider is are the Canadian pesticide level thresholds the same as that in Australia?

Is Canadian tea sourced from the same farms/localities/countries as Australia (are supply chains the same and is the same biosecurity controls, including import treatment, the same for both countries)?

Has there been changes since 2014 in relation to chemicals approved for use on tea? There are many countries in the world who have phased out some of the pesticides highlighted in the 2014 article (or are going through a process to phase out the chemicals, like China is). The pesticide problem may be diminishing?


This is the very reason I asked if ‘Choice’ could do some research on behalf of members, because the internet gives every key board warrior a say no matter how ill informed they maybe and I would like to have them cut through the BS because I trust there balanced research.


@tndkemp In the past we’ve tested strawberries but not tea. I’ll be sure to pass on this suggestion :+1:


Also please test lead levels.


Why did you ask about lead @peter5 ? Is that a specific risk factor of tea? I know it’s not a recommended ingredient in most recipes :wink:

… which raises a point I’d be interested in - what is the overhead/effort involved in doing what I’ll call a ‘full spectrum’ test? (I’m not even remotely connected to the tea or testing or chemistry industries, so for want of a better term) I imagine it is affected by determining risk factors and making a choice of how far to go, but in terms of the likely candidates it would be interesting to know, and it seems like there are quite a few candidates - lead is just one.


It appears there is some science concerning lead in plants and a singular concern re a particular type or use of tea.

Lead in all plants? Yes plants can take in lead. The chemistry is complex. Lead needs to be in a form the plant can take in.

Lead risks to tea drinkers - some research and testing. Matcha tea drinkers (including organic products) may be at most risk.

No doubt the same concerns may exist for any food crops grown in a lead rich environment. It appears to be so.


p.s. It may be more practicable to have reliable evidence of the exact location or source of a food product (risk profiling, assessment) than have all food products to be tested for individual pesticides or toxins. Quality brands often market by region or growing sites. Eg King Island cheeses.


I asked about lead because of Dr Greger’s report on the effects of pullution…

“Lead Contamination of Tea”


Interesting, thanks for the suggestion @peter5.

@draughtrider, I’m not too sure about full spectrum or broad testing, but I know that even the tests for specific elements is extremely expensive. I’d imagine the costs would only increase.


I would recommend taking what Greger says with a grain of salt. He is a known cherry-picker and fear-monger, especially when it comes to nutrition science. There’s nothing wrong with testing a food product for potential contamination, this is just food for thought if you frequent his blog. :slight_smile:


It appears to be the case. There are many US ‘doctors’ in labcoats that perpetuate misinformation or their own beliefs/conspiracies.

This is what the US FDA says about lead in foods,


Depending on the soils the tea is grown on there could/would even be arsenic in the leaves but at levels that don’t normally cause harm to humans. Interestingly Green Teas usually have higher concentrations than Black Teas. When preparing the tea the water used may also contain arsenic and in some regions of India this has caused issues in the past (the ground water at times contained poisonous levels of arsenic).

Any test for the presence of any dangerous element/heavy metal could probably also find Cadmium and others but levels are usually well below levels of any danger to humans. Is it then worth paying a lot of money to assay the teas to determine exact levels? I don’t think so but a random sampling or a more “select” sampling of product might be achievable but still would it be wise application of funds to do so.


While we could debate whether fluoride is a element of concern, tea contains significant fluoride as well.

It is very easy to target a naturally occurring element in soils (such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, aluminium, fluoride etc) and taken up by the plant as something that should be of concern, but in reality, these elements have been consumed since the evolution of humans as they occur naturally in soils.

Where these elements become a concern is where they have been loaded in the soil by human activity (namely contaminate the land) and thus resulting in plant concentrations fair greater than would otherwise be the case. For such to be concern, the plants need to uptake the elements and they must bio-accumulate within the part of the plant harvested and consumed. They would also need to have levels which have proven to impact on human health.

While it is possible, it is not the norm as food based agriculture mostly occurs on land which is not contaminated as contaminated land is principally confined to urban and industrial areas. If for example, a food crop was grown on contaminated land, it is unlikely to cause any problems unless one prodominately eats food from aftected land. This might be the case if one owns and lives off the land while consuming only the food off such land, but this doesn’t occur very often and are rare events. For the average consumer, the risks are non-existent or very low (close to zero).


Agree. Please provide test results otherwise not factual.


Yes it may depend more on where you grow your crop and other factors.

It may also be more important to consider if that next carrot or lettuce is safe to eat, rather than if a sip of tea will do us harm? I try to not eat too many tea leaves.



CSIRO has found more pollution in leafy vegetables and root crops than fruiting plant produce (for example, fruit trees, tomatoes, and peas and beans). This means that soils with more than 3000ppm lead are deemed ok for fruit and grain crops, but not for leafy or root vegetables.

Vegetable gardens should be established away from busy roads – at least 20 to 80 metres away.

If you’re concerned about lead in your soil, consider taking these actions:

Peel root crops, such as potatoes and carrots, as most contaminants taken up from the soil are found in the skin of these plants.
Wash vegetables thoroughly. Discard older, outer leaves which absorb more lead.
Maintain a soil pH of 6.5 to 7.0 and provide adequate phosphorus fertilisation to reduce lead uptake from the soil.
Plant fruiting vegetables instead of leafy or root crops which take up more lead.
Organic matter added to the soil helps tie up lead and makes it less available to plants.
Mulch the soil to reduce blowing dust and to increase water retention.