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Eco-friendly paper straws contain more toxic 'forever chemicals' than plastic straws, study finds
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Eco-friendly paper straws contain more toxic 'forever chemicals' than plastic straws, study finds

A new study found that a vast majority of so-called "eco-friendly" paper straws contain more toxic "forever chemicals" than plastic straws.

European researchers examined 39 brands of straws available in Belgian stores. The study analyzed straws made of paper, bamboo, glass, stainless steel, and plastic. The study sought to determine whether the straws contained a harmful group of synthetic chemicals known as poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS.

PFAS are a class of between 12,000 and 14,000 human-made chemicals that are made by combining fluorine and carbon.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences says of PFAS:

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large, complex group of synthetic chemicals that have been used in consumer products around the world since about the 1950s. They are ingredients in various everyday products. For example, PFAS are used to keep food from sticking to packaging or cookware, make clothes and carpets resistant to stains, and create firefighting foam that is more effective.

PFAS are commonly called "forever chemicals" because they do not degrade easily in the environment and barely break down in human bodies. The synthetic pollutants are known to be potentially harmful to humans, wildlife, and the environment.

The study published on Thursday in the Food Additives and Contaminants journal found that paper straws contained an alarming amount of forever chemicals – even more than plastic straws.

The new study found 90% of paper straws had PFAS, compared to 80% of bamboo straws, 75% of plastic straws, and 40% of glass straws. PFAS were not detected in any of the stainless steel straws.

"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," said Thimo Groffen, the study’s corresponding author.

"The presence of PFAS in paper and bamboo straws shows they are not necessarily biodegradable," 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."

Groffen said, "Small amounts of PFAS, while not harmful in themselves, can add to the chemical load already present in the body."

New Atlas reported, "The researchers say that while the study did not determine whether PFAS were added to the straws or were the result of contamination – for example, from the soil in which the plant-based materials are grown – the presence of the chemicals in almost every brand of paper straw means it’s likely that, in some cases, PFAS were used as a water-repellent coating. "

A 2021 study also found PFAS in paper straws.

"While the plastic straws had no measurable PFAS, 21 PFAS were detected in the paper and other plant-based straws," the study said.

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 97% of Americans have PFAS in their bodies.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns that "exposure to certain PFAS may lead to adverse health outcomes." Studies have shown that exposure to certain levels of PFAS may lead to decreased fertility, developmental issues in children, increased risk of some cancers, reduced ability of the body's immune system, and interference with hormones.

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Paul Sacca

Paul Sacca

Paul Sacca is a staff writer for Blaze News.
@Paul_Sacca →