A new study of plastic straw alternatives reveal some of the most popular among climate change activists contain banned chemicals.
The study, conducted by environmental scientists at the University of Antwerp, tested five different types of plastic-alternative straws for toxic perfluorinated and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS).
PFAS are common in a number of household products, including cookware, packaging, and apparel meant for all-weather conditions.
PFAS are known for their longevity within the human body as well as the environment.
They’ve been linked to testicular cancer, thyroid disease, kidney cancer, and a variety of other illnesses.
“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,” corresponding author Thimo Groffen said in a statement.
“However, the presence of PFAS in these straws means that’s not necessarily true.”
The study built off a previous study that focused on US drinking straws.
Groffen and his team were interested in the straws sold commercially in countries like Belgium and the UK, which have banned the sale of single-use plastic products such as straws.
The test subjects were 39 brands of straws made from five different materials: paper, bamboo, glass, stainless steel and plastic.
29 of those brands were found to contain PFAS, or nearly 70%.
Paper straws, which have popped up all over the world as a common alternative to plastic, were actually the worst offenders.
18 in 20 paper straw brands contained PFAS.
Four out of five bamboo brands were the next worst offenders.
Plastic came in the middle of the pack, with three out of four brands containing PFAS. Glass saw just two of five brands contain the chemicals.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, none of the five brands of stainless-steel straws contained PFAS.
The most common PFAS compound detected in the straws, PFOA, has been banned around the world since 2020.
The scientists also called out the presence of TFA and TFMS in the straws, which are highly water-soluble PFAS that could likely leach out of straws and into drinks directly.
In conclusion, Groffen suggested consumers stick with stainless-steel straws if they must use a straw at all.