Single serve coffee pods: the environmental impact & your health

Nearly 10 billion single serve coffee pods went into landfills last year alone, raising an outcry over their environmental impact. Now some are questioning whether the pods are also a health concern.{}

Jill Silverman, a Pikesville speech pathologist and busy mom of three, found a number of posts on Facebook about mold and bacteria lurking in her machine. The self described 'germaphobe' cleans her machine regularly but worries that the interior housing of the machine could be harboring bacteria she can't get to with those cleanings. "I'm almost tempted to take it apart just to see what is actually in it," she says. {}

Dr. Marc Leavey with Mercy Medical Center says, "coffee makers that store the water inside the machine cause the biggest problem because at that point you've got standing water and bacteria or mold can grow."{}

Keurig Green Mountain, with whom we spoke for this story, says by following the manufacturer's cleaning guidelines, consumers can ensure the safe use of its products.{}Similar to other household appliances, their brewers require basic maintenance in order to keep them clean and functioning properly.{}

To which Dr. Leavey agrees, adding "you can absolutely clean it, it's meticulous and most people are not going to take the time to do that."{}

In the case of the communal coffee maker, Leavey does say that it may not be the standing water that's the biggest issue: "some studies have shown that the bacterial count on communal coffee makers is higher than that on toilet seats."{}

Leavey recommends the interior and exterior of any type of machine be kept clean, saying that "most studies have shown that the amount of mold that could be in these machines, presuming they are kept reasonably normally, is fine." However, he adds, "if you are immunodeficient, if you're a cancer patient, you ought to check with somebody before you use a communal machine."