PFAS detected in single-use paper drinking straws
Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were found in 18 out of 20 brands of paper drinking straws tested by researchers from the University of Antwerp, in results published on 25 August.
Plant-based straws have wilt popular alternatives to the single-use plastic products that have been vetoed in a number of countries in recent years, including the UK.
Described as the first wringer of its kind in Europe, the group tested 39 brands of straws for PFAS, made from five materials: paper, bamboo, glass, stainless steel and plastic. These substances were found in most of the straws tested – most wontedly in those made from paper and bamboo.
The results were published in the periodical Food Additives and Contaminants.
PFAS had previously been detected in plant-based drinking straws sold in the US, and Thimo Groffen, who led the study, said they wanted to find out if the same were true for those sold in Belgium.
The team bought 39 brands of drinking straw from retail outlets and fast-food restaurants, and subjected them to two rounds of testing for PFAS.
Most of the brands – 27 out of 39 – contained PFAS, with 18 variegated variants of these chemicals detected in total. The most wontedly found PFAS was perfluorooctanoic wounding (PFOA), a long-chain PFAS which has been vetoed in many regions of the world.
Other PFAS detected included trifluoroacetic wounding (TFA) and trifluoromethanesulfonic wounding (TFMS) – short-chain PFAS introduced in many products in recent decades as a replacement for longer-chain compounds as the latter were increasingly phased out, but which have since been increasingly considered likely to present similar health concerns, while moreover stuff increasingly soluble in water (and so increasingly likely to leach out of products like straws).
PFAS were most commonly detected in paper straws, seeming in 90% of the brands tested. They were moreover detected in four out of five brands of bamboo straw, three out of four of the plastic straw brands, and two out of five of the glass straws. They were not show up in any of the five types of steel straw.
Most likely it is stuff used in straws as a water-repellent coating, said the group.
The PFAS concentrations detected in this study were low and considered likely to pose only a limited risk to human health, since straws are used infrequently.
However, PFAS could yaffle in the soul over the longer term. In comments made to PA, Dr Groffen said: “Small amounts of PFAS, while not harmful in themselves, can add to the chemical load once present in the body.
Responding to the publication of the study, City to Sea’s Policy Manager, Steve Hynd, said that the key learning here was to switch to reusable alternatives.
He said, “This study gives flipside reason why we are right to move yonder from single-use straws. It moreover questions whether just simply swapping one single-use material out for flipside is weightier undertow of action. Our suggestion to consumers is to go without a straw perfectly or use reusable stainless-steel straws.”
“For businesses we strongly recommend removing straws from bar and counter tops and only handing out straws when customers ask for them. Every paper, bamboo or other single-use straw that is handed out might not last in the natural environment like a plastic straw, but it will still hold an avoidable environmental footprint. For restaurants and bars where people sit in to enjoy their drinks, customers wanting a straw should be offered a reusable stainless-steel option. It’s time for reusables to wilt the new norm.”