Paper and bamboo straws have risen in popularity as alternatives to plastic straws. But scientists in Belgium recently tested dozens of straws and found a majority to contain PFAS – a family of synthetic chemicals resistant to water, grease, and heat and used in the manufacture of a range of consumer products.
It’s not clear whether the manufacturers of the straws analysed are intentionally adding PFAS as a waterproof coating, says the author of the study. Other possibilities are that PFAS accidentally winds up in straws during the production process, or that bamboo straws have trace amounts of PFAS due to plants being grown in contaminated soil.
PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment or in our bodies. Exposure to PFAS is associated with low birth weight, high cholesterol, thyroid disease and an increased risk of kidney and liver cancers.