Paper and bamboo straws contain PFAs finds new study

Some paper and bamboo straws contain so-called “forever chemicals” that could make them a less-than-ideal alternative to plastic, researchers have found.

Scientists in Belgium recently tested dozens of straws from supermarkets, retail stores and fast-food restaurants in the country, and found that the majority contained perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — a family of synthetic chemicals used in the manufacture of consumer products because they can resist stains, grease and water.

Dubbed “forever chemicals” because they do not easily break down, PFAS are used in a range of products from firefighting foam to non-stick cookware and have been linked to cancer and hormonal dysfunction.

The researchers sampled 39 brands of straws made of paper, bamboo, glass, stainless steel and plastic. Of those, 27 were found to contain PFAS, though the concentrations were low.

The results were published in the journal Food Additives and Contaminants.

PFAS, an acronym for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are often referred to as “forever chemicals” because they linger almost permanently in air, water and soil. They are frequently detected in food wrappers, cosmetics, carpet, furniture and textiles such as raincoats or workout clothes.

Of the straws tested in the study, those made of paper were the most likely to contain PFAS: The chemicals were detected in 18 out of 20 brands. Four out of five bamboo straws sampled contained PFAS, compared to three out of four plastic straws and two out of five glass straws. All five stainless steel straws analysed were PFAS-free.

Previous research in the US has also detected PFAS in paper and other plant-based straws, among many other types of cookware and packaging.

The suggestion that paper and bamboo straws contain PFAs comes after 3M recently secured preliminary approval for a $10.3 billion deal resolving claims by US public water providers that the company polluted drinking water with toxic chemicals.

US District Judge Richard Gergel in Charleston, South Carolina, said in a court filing that the settlement of hundreds of lawsuits against the Minnesota-based company over pollution by, or PFAS, is “sufficiently fair, reasonable and adequate” to justify moving forward.

Paul Napoli, an attorney for the water providers, called the preliminary approval a “pivotal moment in our ongoing efforts to ensure safe and clean drinking water.”

A 3M spokesperson said the agreement will benefit US public water systems that provide water to “a vast majority of Americans” without further litigation.

The settlement will be considered during a final “fairness hearing” in February, when the judge will consider any outstanding objections or concerns before deciding whether to give final approval.

3M, which has said the settlement would help support remediation “at any level,” has not admitted wrongdoing. 

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