There are new concerns over the presence of PFAS, also known as ‘forever chemicals’, in paper straws.
A research team in Belgium tested 39 brands of commercially available straws made from a range of materials – including paper, bamboo and stainless steel – checking for 29 individual PFAS compounds.
Dr Thimo Groffen, environmental scientist at the University of Antwerp and co-author of the resulting study, confirms that 69% of brands (equating to 90% of paper straws) tested positive for PFAS, with 18 different types of PFAS detected.
The research team believe some of the ‘forever chemicals’ found may have been added to the straws as a water-repellent coating, and highlight that the most common PFAS identified in the samples have been under global ban since 2020.
Small amounts of PFAS … can add to the chemical load already present in the body
“Straws made from plant-based materials … 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,” says Dr Groffen.
“Small amounts of PFAS, while not harmful in themselves, can add to the chemical load already present in the body.”
No further research has yet been conducted into whether it is possible for PFAS to leach from straws into liquid – although highly soluble trifluoroacetic acid was found to be present in some paper straws – but the team concluded that ‘the most sustainable alternative seems to be stainless steel straws’ since no PFAS were detected in the five steel straws used in their investigations.