- Scientists tested 39 brands of straws for the group of chemicals known as PFAS
- PFAS were most common in straws made of paper and bamboo.
We may all think that we are doing our bit for the planet by drinking our beverages through a paper straw.
But “green” alternatives contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals, a new study has found.
In the first analysis of its kind in Europe, Belgian researchers tested 39 brands of straws for the group of synthetic chemicals known as poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
PFAS were found in most of the straws tested and were most common in those made from paper and bamboo.
Synthetic chemicals are used to make everyday products, from outdoor clothing to nonstick pans that are resistant to water, heat, and stains.
We may all think that we are doing our bit for the planet by drinking our beverages through a paper straw. But “green” alternatives contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals, a new study has found (file image)
However, they are potentially harmful to people, wildlife, and the environment.
The substances break down very slowly over time and can persist for thousands of years in the environment, a property that has led to their being known as “eternal chemicals.”
They have been linked to a number of health problems, including a decreased response to vaccines, lower birth weight, thyroid disease, increased cholesterol levels, liver damage, kidney cancer, and testicular cancer.
The research team purchased 39 different brands of straws made from five materials: paper, bamboo, glass, stainless steel, and plastic.
The straws, which were mainly purchased in convenience stores, supermarkets and fast food restaurants, were then subjected to two rounds of tests for PFAS.
The research team purchased 39 different brands of straws made from five materials: paper, bamboo, glass, stainless steel, and plastic (file image)
WHAT ARE PFAS?
PFAS are man-made chemicals used as oil and water repellents and as coatings for common products, including cookware, carpets, and textiles.
These endocrine-disrupting chemicals do not break down when released into the environment and continue to accumulate over time.
PFAS chemicals can contaminate drinking water supplies near facilities where the chemicals are used.
PFAS contamination has been detected in water near manufacturing facilities, as well as military bases and firefighting training facilities where PFAS-containing foam is used.
They also enter the food supply through food packaging materials and contaminated soil.
Analysis revealed that the majority of brands (69 percent) contained PFAS, with 18 different PFASs being detected in total.
Paper straws were more likely to contain synthetic chemicals.
The most commonly encountered PFAS, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), has been banned worldwide since 2020.
Trifluoroacetic acid (TFA) and trifluoromethanesulfonic acid (TFMS), “ultra-short-chain” PFASs that are highly soluble in water and therefore could leach from straws into beverages, were also detected.
PFAS concentrations were low and, since most people tend to use straws only occasionally, they pose limited risk to human health. However, PFASs can remain in the body for many years, and their concentrations can increase over time.
The authors advised people to use stainless steel straws or to avoid using straws.
“Straws made from plant-based materials, such as paper and bamboo, are often advertised as being more sustainable and environmentally friendly than those made from plastic,” said researcher Dr. Thimo Groffen, an environmental scientist at the University of Antwerp. , who was involved in the study.
‘However, the presence of PFAS in these straws means that this is not necessarily true.
“Small amounts of PFAS, while not harmful in and of themselves, can add to the chemical load already present in the body.”
The findings were published in the journal Food Additives and Contaminants.