Researchers have detected toxic chemicals in “sustainable and eco-friendly” paper straws, meaning they are as harmful to the environment as plastic versions.
An investigation conducted by Belgian academics has discovered that the synthetic chemicals known as poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are present in straws made from bamboo and paper.
According to the study, these chemicals are a possible danger to wildlife, the environment and humans.
However, they are used in several everyday items, including non-stick pans and outdoor clothing. Otherwise known as forever chemicals, PFAS can take thousands of years to break down.
Previous research has found that these chemicals can trigger health complications, including lower birth weight, thyroid disease, kidney cancer, liver damage, increased cholesterol levels, testicular cancer and a lower response to vaccines.
Fellow author Dr Thimo Groffen 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.”
The UK is just one of the many countries to have swapped plastic drinking straws for eco-friendly paper versions.
During the study, the team of researchers reviewed nearly 40 brands of drinking straws made from either plastic, stainless steel, paper, glass or bamboo.
Most of the brands used PFAS to create their straws, with the academics identifying 18 different types of the chemical.
Approximately 90% of the paper straw brands contained PFAS and 80% of the brands of bamboo straw contained the forever chemicals, the study has reported.
In addition, PFAS was identified in 75% of plastic straw brands and 40% of glass straw brands. Meanwhile, the forever chemicals were not found in any of the steel straw brands.
Dr Groffen said: “Small amount of PFAS, while not harmful in themselves, can add to the chemical load already present in the body.
“The presence of PFAS in paper and bamboo straw shows they are not necessarily biodegradable.”
Dr Groffen added: “We did not detect any PFAS in stainless steel straws, so I would advise consumers to use this type of straw – or just avoid using straws at all.”
The investigative study can be accessed here.