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One Major Side Effect of Drinking From a Plastic Cup, According to Experts

Think twice before filling up that red cup.
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman

Plastic poisons the environment—at this point, that's common knowledge. But recently there's been another imminent concern when it comes to the problematic and prolific material: how does plastic contaminate the human body?

Summer always brings a wave of plastic-cupped parties. Entire games revolve around them, country songs playback refrains about them. But especially during the hottest time of the year when all you want to do is beat the heat with a cold, refreshing drink, there are a slew of potential health hazards to consider before you drink from them. (Related: 112 Most Popular Sodas Ranked by How Toxic They Are)

According to experts, the number one side effect plastic cups have on your body is, in short, that they can make you sick. This risk occurs in two ways—the first of which is a result of consuming even micro amounts of plastic.

"A recent study published in the journal Chemosphere measured the average plastic shed by a single-use plastic cup, and it was a whopping 3 milligrams per cup," says Amy Neuzil, a naturopathic doctor. "Even if you actually consume only a fraction of that, it adds up to a huge amount."

Consuming microplastics affects your immune system.

And what does that plastic intake translate to, in terms of health? Nutritionist Niyla Carson laid it out for us, detailing that "drinking from cups that are high in BPA content heightens the risk of our immunity power being reduced."

Carlson added that plastic cups are especially non-advisable for pregnant women—but in a world so recently scourged by a pandemic, we might all do well to avoid anything that could harm our immune systems.

The second way in which plastic cups can make you sick is a bit more straightforward. Lisa Richards, the nutritionist from The Candida Diet, explained that since "these cups are typically used at large gatherings where it is common to lose track of your own cup and accidentally take someone else's, by the end of the day you've likely taken in germs from another person or shared your own."

She continued to say that "the lips on these cups are often made with a small space underneath where germs and saliva can gather. If you are using this cup throughout the day, or multiple days, this can build up and lead to bacterial growth which you are then taking in and putting yourself at risk for illness."

Moral of the story, here? As masks come down and plastic cup season swings into high gear, be mindful about how often and in which ways you choose to partake. Or better yet, grab a cup made of glass for your drink instead. Better to continue to keep that immune system strong!

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Kaley Roberts
Kaley Roberts is a food writer. Read more about Kaley
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