Eco-friendly paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals
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While they once seemed like the solution to our eco- and sipping needs, new research suggests that paper straws contain potentially toxic chemicals and may not actually be better for the planet after all.
Aside from metallic options, paper and bamboo have been the straw material of choice for eco-conscious sippers since plastic straws were banned in the UK in October 2020 to 'fight against plastic waste to protect natural environments and marine wildlife'.
But sadly, 'forever chemicals' called PFAs, which break down over thousands of years in the environment, were found in most of the paper and bamboo straws from both shops and restaurants that scientists from the University of Antwerp tested.
Of the 39 different brands of straw tested, PFAs were found in 90 percent of paper straws, four out of five bamboo ones, three out of four plastic straws, and two out of five glass straws. None were found in steel straws.
According to their write-up, poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances are added to eco-friendly straws 'make them water repellant'.
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), was previously the most common PFA, but was banned worldwide in 2020.
However, while it will stop your cocktail making your straw soggy, PFAs are 'known to be potentially harmful for wildlife, humans, and the environment' over time, the scientists explained - although the study did not investigate if the PFAs could leach out of straws into your drink.
While the concentration of PFAs was low and you probably don't use a straw every time you drink throughout the day, the researchers said the health risk is limited but can build up over time as they linger in our bodies.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, health risks include lowered response to vaccines in children, slightly lower birth weight as well as an increased risk of high blood pressure, lower birth rates, thyroid disease, increased cholesterol levels, liver damage, kidney cancer and testicular cancer.
Dr Thimo Groffen, one of the scientists behind the findings, say that PFAs were present in drinking straws in Belgium, but were first found in the US.
He said: "Straws made from plant-based materials, such as paper and bamboo, are often advertised as being more sustainable and eco-friendly than those made from plastic.
"However, the presence of PFAS in these straws means that's not necessarily true."
While he suggests investing in a steel straw, he said it might be an idea to 'avoid using straws at all'.
Suck on that.