Paper and bamboo straws are often advertised as healthier and more eco-friendly alternatives to plastic straws. However, recent research conducted at the University of Antwerp suggests that paper straws might not be as safe as previously thought.
Climate disasters are unfolding right in front of our eyes. Uncontrolled fires in Greece and Australia, floods in Germany and Austria, and record-breaking temperatures are just a few examples of such catastrophes. As a result, many people are heeding the warnings of scientists and activists and adopting a more environmentally friendly way of life.
One way to reduce pollution is using paper straws instead of plastic ones. However, it has come to light that using bamboo or paper straws may not be entirely safe. Researchers from the University of Antwerp in Belgium have discovered that some straws that claim to be eco-friendly contain potentially harmful chemicals.
Paper straws may pose risk to humans and environment
A report published by experts from the Belgian University of Antwerp on January 8th has raised concerns about some plant-based and environmentally friendly alternatives to plastics, which have been found to contribute to PFAS pollution. PFAS is a group of over 4,000 synthetic chemicals used in a wide range of products because of their hydrophobic and fatty properties, including non-stick pans and takeaway food packaging.
The researchers tested 39 different brands of straws, including plastic, bamboo, paper, glass, and stainless steel. They discovered that almost all of them contained chemicals hazardous to health and the environment, except those made of stainless steel.
The most common hazardous substance found in straws was perfluorooctanoic acid. It is worth noting that the European Union has banned the production of this plastic from 2020 due to safety concerns. However, the acid can still be found in old or recycled consumer products.
Are paper straws dangerous?
According to the website ekologia.pl, there is a risk of direct exposure to PFAS, a harmful substance, from straws that enter our drinks. Although many straws would need to be consumed for the effects to be felt, it is always possible. Even small amounts of PFAS can increase the chemical load already present in the body, says Thimo Groffen, an environmental scientist at the University of Antwerp.
Experts warn that even if straws are recycled, the hazardous substances they contain can still seep into the new product. Furthermore, if straws are dumped in a landfill or incinerated, the chemicals they contain can still spread and seriously threaten animals and the environment.
To avoid this risk, Thimo Groffen suggests using straws made of stainless steel or simply giving up straws altogether. This way, we can be sure that no harmful toxins enter our bodies.