Paper straws have more ‘permanent chemicals’ than plastic, a new study reveals

In a growing global campaign to eliminate plastic pollution and promote environmentally friendly alternatives, the paper straw was thought to have come out the winner. However, a new study has raised questions about it.

According to the study, paper straws may contain more “permanent chemicals” than plastic straws, reducing their environmental friendliness.

The study published Thursday in the journal Food Additives and Contaminants found PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds) “permanently chemical” in most of the paper and bamboo straws examined.

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Permanent chemicals in paper straws mean they’re not as eco-friendly as we once thought

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Belgian scientists tested 39 types of straws made of paper, bamboo, plastic and stainless steel that can be bought in shops, supermarkets and restaurants across the country.

Almost all of the straws examined contained some combination of PFAS, commonly used during manufacturing to make waterproof items. Chemicals were found in 27 of the 39 tested, none of which were stainless steel.

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On the other hand, paper straws were found to be the most likely to contain PFAS: 18 out of 20 brands, or 90%, tested positive.

They were also found in four out of five bamboo straws, three out of four plastic straws, and two out of five glass straws.

In total, eighteen different PFASs were found, albeit in low numbers. However, the most frequently discovered compound was perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which was banned globally in 2020.

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“These ‘green’ vegetable straws are not necessarily a more sustainable alternative to plastic straws,” the study concluded, “because they may be considered as an additional source of PFAS exposure in humans and the environment (for example, after degradation). in landfills or through incomplete incineration).”

The study also detected PFAS that are known to be highly soluble in water, implying that they could leach from the straw into a drink, but did not investigate this component further.

Much more research has been done on the sources of pollution

While manufacturers can actively coat their plant-based straws with chemicals to make them water repellent, the presence of PFAS could also be related to contaminated soil or an accidental result of recycling materials, according to the study.

The authors proposed that more research and testing be done to discover the important source of contamination in the straws and how the chemicals can affect the drinks and the people who consume them.

This Belgian study follows a 2021 US study that found 21 PFASs in paper and other plant-based straws, but no significant amounts in plastic straws.

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PFAS found in straw test!

Although PFAS were found in most of the straws tested, the low concentration, combined with the limited use of straws, means they do not pose an immediate risk to humans.

PFAS equipment levels are not dangerous in and of themselves; its ability to accumulate over time, especially in the human body, offers the most significant concern. Despite these findings, plant-based straws are still preferable to plastic ones.

Because stainless steel straws are durable and PFAS-free, the study authors recommend using them for health and environmental reasons.

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Do you know what PFAS are?

PFAS is an abbreviation for “perfluoroalkyl substances” and refers to a group of long-lived chemicals that take a long time to break down in the environment.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PFAS are widely used and persist in the environment for long periods, which means they can be found in the blood of humans and animals around the world, as well as in air, water, soil, and at low levels in food, packaging, and household products.

How do PFAS affect your health?

While scientists are still investigating how PFAS affect us, animals, and the environment, they are already linked to several health risks. PFAS, according to the EPA, have been associated with:

  • Reduced fertility or increased high blood pressure in pregnant women are examples of reproductive side effects.
  • Effects or delays in children’s development include low birth weight, accelerated puberty, bone variations, or behavioral changes.
  • Some cancers, such as prostate, kidney, and testicular cancers, are at increased risk.
  • Reduced ability of the immune system to fight infection, including a decreased response to the vaccine.
  • Interference with the body’s natural hormones.
  • Increased cholesterol levels and risk of obesity.
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What is the typical location of PFAS?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), PFASs can be detected in hundreds of everyday products. The FDA has allowed its use at limited levels in particular cases, including food packaging. They are frequently seen in:

  • Stain and water resistant fabrics and floors.
  • Cleaning supplies.
  • paintings.
  • Firefighting foams.
  • Cookware.
  • Food containers.
  • Food processing equipment.

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