In an article from April 15, 2021, news provider Environmental Health News reported on a new study published by John A. Bowden‘s research team from the University of Florida in the peer-reviewed journal Chemosphere on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) present in plant-based drinking straws.
Bowden’s research group was interested in how the manufacturers achieved water repellency for their paper-based products and whether it could be due to the presence of PFAS. Therefore, the lab tested 38 biodegradable straw brands purchased from Amazon in early 2020. Thirty-six of the investigated brands contained detectable PFAS, among which perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA; CAS 375-22-4), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA; CAS 335-67-1), and perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA CAS 307-24-4) were the most frequently detected species.
The researchers argue that marketing these products as “biodegradable” may be misleading as PFAS chemicals are persistent and hardly degrade in the environment. In addition, although PFAS exposure from paper straws may be small, the potential for low-dose effects as well as cumulative exposure to PFAS from different sources could be of concern due to adverse effects on human health shown for some PFAS.
Many countries worldwide have started implementing single-use plastic bans, such as the EU with its Directive 2019/904 (FPF reported), Canada (FPF reported), and India (FPF reported). Food packaging producers and manufacturers have often reacted to these new regulations by proposing non-plastic alternatives such as paper straws.
Timshina A. et al. (March 2021). “The last straw: Characterization of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in commercially-available plant-based drinking straws.” Chemosphere
EUWID (April 27, 2021). “Verband 360° Foodservice entwickelt „Charter of Trust“ für Papiertrinkhalme.”
Quinn McVeigh (April 15, 2021). “‘Forever chemicals’ coat the outer layers of biodegradable straws.” Environmental Health News