Noooo! Bubble Tea Is Carcinogenic, Probably Going To Kill You

bubble tea bad for you

A silent killer!

Often times, a health study comes out with a conclusion that is either a.) not surprising at all (like that sports drinks are useless) or b.) kind of a bummer (like that bananas are covered in crab juice), but not life-ruining. But there is a rare third category, in which a scientific study is so heartbreakingly awful that I just want to cry. Like this one, that found that the tapioca “pearls” found in bubble tea are full of potentially cancer-causing chemicals. Readers, I am officially devastated.

Bubble tea, which is really more like a milky, creamy, wonderful smoothie-esque drink, is Taiwanese of origin, but gained a lot of popularity here at home on college campuses within the last 10 years. Now, it’s hard to walk down an urban street near a university and not find a place that sells it. But apparently, it’s not just sugary and full of empty calories (which I’d already decided that I was OK with, because I LOVE IT), it’s also full of carcinogens. That, I can’t quite excuse.

The bubbles, it seems, contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are usually used for industrial purposes, not in edible creations. Probably because multiple respectable studies have indicated that they have a strong link to cancers like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Doctors also warn that the bubbles could be a choking hazards, but really, so are any child-windpipe-sized nubbins. That part is less surprising. Also, I am an grown-ass woman, so I’m not terribly concerned about choking.

But the cancer part? That concerns me. Like I said, I love bubble tea. I love the chewy tapioca balls (some people hate them. Those people have no souls). I love the unusual flavors it comes in. I love having a refreshing, cold drink on a hot afternoon that also gives me something to munch on. Which is why this study makes me really sad.

Of course, warnings about the potentially-hazardous chemicals are only being released in the UK and Germany, where food safety and consumer protection laws are stronger. Here in the US, it’s likely that bubble tea will be considered perfectly safe, because the FDA hates to outlaw anything–like, for example, BPA, which remains totally legal.

But I, personally, will be cutting back on my already-rare bubble tea treats. Which is, as I said, heartbreaking.

Image: stockcreations via Shutterstock

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    • sam

      thank you for ruining my day :(

    • L

      here’s how i see it–just by walking outside without sunblock every day, you’re already putting yourself at a significant risk for cancer. so you know what? throw caution to the wind and have a bubble tea!

      • Hanna Brooks Olsen

        Ha! That’s a good perspective. Alright, I guess I can have like, one bubble tea. Except now that I know what those weird chemicals are, it may put me off it, anyway….

      • LW

        @Hanna Brooks Olsen

        No offense, but you really should do your research more thoroughly because, sorry to burst your bubble, EVERYTHING causes some sort of cancer at some level. This includes the makeup you put on your skin, the type of laundry detergent you use for your clothes, diet soda (diet-anything), staring at the computer, using your cellphone, walking outside for periods of time (even sunblock lotions can have carcinogens like makeup), and even air (especially air in large cities like Los Angeles and Shanghai).

        Yes there are chemicals in the pearls, but you should realize how many chemicals there are in soda, fast food, candy, and anything that’s packaged.

        It is IMPOSSIBLE to live a carcinogen-free lifestyle, so it’s much more practical if you just ate healthily as much as possible, exercised, and enjoyed your bubble tea once in a while.

    • KRose

      The bubble tea place near me offers a choice of the tapioca pearls OR the juice-filled pearls that aren’t dangerous at all (except for all the sugar). Maybe you could switch to that? Flavored bubble tea with popping mango or strawberry pearls is the BEST! And i love that it looks like I’m carrying gemstones around in my mouth.

    • Dee

      Everything, if eaten too much, can be a hazard and possibly kill you.

    • Tina

      If you read the study, they only tested a single chain’s tapioca pearls. Unless there is only one factory in Taiwan that makes these pearls then I think the study is incomplete. I also think that the study was done to only bolster those against the pearls due to their (very rare in my opinion) choking hazard.

    • ilovesunshine

      What do you think caused this one? Man dies drinking milk tea.