Since plastic straws were banned in the UK, many restaurants have used bamboo and paper straws to fight plastic waste
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For several years, we’ve been using eco-friendly paper straws – and for good reason.
But now it turns out some contain potentially toxic chemicals and might not be that much better for the planet.
Since plastic straws were banned in the UK, many restaurants have used bamboo and paper straws to fight plastic waste.
However, so-called forever chemicals called PFAs (per-and poly fluoroalkyl substances), which take thousands of years to break down, have been found in most paper and bamboo straws in a recent study.
Of the 39 different brands of straw tested by scientists at the University of Antwerp, PFAs were found in 90 per cent of paper straws, 80 per cent of bamboo straws, 75 per cent of plastic straws, and 40 per cent of glass straws. None were found in steel straws.
Researchers said PFAs are added to supposedly eco-friendly straws to make them “water repellant”.
PFAs are “known to be potentially harmful for wildlife, humans, and the environment” over time, which seems like quite a large price to pay to stop your straw going soggy".
And while the concentration of the chemicals was low, the researchers said health risks could build up over time as they linger in our bodies. The study did not, however, investigate whether they could transfer from the straw into your drink.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said risks could include lowering response to vaccines in children, lower birth weight and an increased risk of high blood pressure, thyroid disease, higher cholesterol levels, liver damage, kidney cancer and testicular cancer.
Dr Thimo Groffen, one of the scientists carrying out the study, 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”.