Because plastic drinking straws are bad for the environment, the thinking was that paper- and bamboo-based straws were the answer. However, researchers at Belgium's University of Antwerp have some bad news: They've found paper- and plant-based straws were more likely to contain PFAs (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a/k/a "forever chemicals," because they take forever to break down) than plastic straws.
PFAs are linked to a variety of health problems including cancer, thyroid disease, immune system problems and developmental issues in children.
In a sign of just how screwed our environment is, the researchers point out that it's not clear where the PFAs enter the paper/plant-based straw manufacturing chain. "In order to make these materials water-repellent, PFAS are added during manufacturing but can also already be present early in the supply chain due to the use of contaminated raw materials," they write.
"For both plant-based straws -made from paper or bamboo - it was not clear whether the contamination with PFAs had occurred during plant growth on contaminated soils. In addition, the scientists noted that the occurrence of PFAs in the paper straws could be due to the use of recycled contaminated paper fibres, the contamination of source materials or the processing water, or the fertiliser used in agriculture. Because so many different contamination routes were possible, pinpointing the exact source of the contamination was difficult."
The researchers examined 39 different brands of straws made from five different materials: Paper, bamboo, glass, stainless steel, and plastic. All except the stainless steel contained PFAs.
Obviously that's bad news for the environment, and our bodies. "The presence of PFAS in plant-based straws," the researchers conclude, "shows that they are not necessarily biodegradable and that the use of such straws potentially contributes to human and environmental exposure of PFAS."
Which begs the question: How badly do we, as a species, really need drinking straws? Drinking ice coffee or smoothies from a straw is perhaps more convenient, but if you've ever tried drinking either without, chances are you didn't drown.
Also, if you consider what the most important and life-sustaining beverages are (water, cold beer, hot coffee) you probably drink any of those without a straw, and have survived long enough to read this.
In fact, I'm starting to think straws are a scam, pushed on us by industrialists with moustaches. People with moustaches are obviously the only ones who will refuse to drink frothy beverages without a straw because it fouls their facial grooming. So how long will we allow ourselves to be slaves to people who control vast amounts of capital but are too lazy to shave?
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