Paper straws are no better than plastic, research says

Aug 30, 2023, 9:00 AM | Updated: 9:10 am

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 21:  Paper straws sit on the bar at Fog Harbor Fish House on June 21, 2018...

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 21: Paper straws sit on the bar at Fog Harbor Fish House on June 21, 2018 in San Francisco, California. San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley are all considering bans on plastic straws but are facing the difficult challenge of finding suppliers that make paper straws. Aardvark Straws, one of a few paper straw manufacturers in the United States, has seen a 5000 percent surge in sales over the past two years and currently is about two months behind on production. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Plastic straws have long been vilified for their negative impact on the environment. In efforts to be more environmentally friendly, many have adopted paper straws as an alternative.

Despite well-meaning attempts to cause less harm to the environment, researchers found that paper straws are just as bad. 

Christian Britschgi, a reporter for Reason Magazine, said Belgian researchers examined 39 straw brands. The examined straws were made with different materials like paper, plastic, metal, and bamboo. 

They measured the presence of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs). The chemicals are common in consumer products and industrial processes.

Products such as food packaging, fire extinguishing foam, and household cleaning products all contain PFAs. The chemicals are fire and water-resistant, said the Environmental Protection Agency

The chemicals, often called “forever chemicals” do not break down in the environment, according to the CDC. Because they do not break down, they can move through soil and water, contaminating food and drinking water. Bioaccumulation can cause health problems in animals. 

Research has found that PFAs are hazardous to the environment and to human health. According to the EPA, research has found that exposure to certain levels of PFAs can result in adverse health risks. Some examples are decreased fertility, increased risk of developing some cancers, and reduced immunity, among other conditions. Research into adverse health effects related to PFA exposure is ongoing.

Human consumption of products derived from animals that were exposed to bioaccumulation, breathing contaminated air or drinking contaminated water, or certain occupations such as chemical manufacturing, are all examples of PFA exposure. 

Paper vs. Plastic Straws 

Researchers found that the paper straws all contained PFAs. They also contained higher concentrations of “forever chemicals” than their counterparts constructed with other materials. 

Plastic straws also contain PFAs, but in lower concentrations. About 70% of the plastic straws examined by the researchers contained the chemicals. 

The only type of straw that did not contain PFAs was the steel option. Steel straws are a reusable option.

Britschgi said the emissions and pollution produced from making them should be taken into account when determining how environmentally friendly they are. 

Related reading: 



We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


Liver and kidney transplant patient Luis Campos says he's grateful he had a Spanish-speaking team....

Eric Cabrera

Murray kidney clinic helping the Latino community

MURRAY, Utah — Intermountain Health has taken steps to address healthcare in Latino communities by opening Utah’s first fully Spanish-speaking Kidney Transplant Clinic. The Intermountain Clinica Hispana de Riñon (Hispanic Kidney Clinic), in Murray, aims to provide a space for members of the Latino community navigating the complex kidney transplant process. The clinic has bilingual professionals, […]

4 hours ago

utah department of health shown, the department is dealing with a medicaid related outage...

Heather Kelly

Medicaid members in Utah affected by nationwide outage

Utah Medicaid asked local pharmacies to provide a free 30-day supply to high-risk patients affected by the outage.

9 hours ago

Marijuana grows at Tryke Companies Utah's medical cannabis cultivation facility in Tooele...

Michael Camit

Ironing out Utah’s Medical Cannabis Program

Medical marijuana is one of Utah's most regulated substances, but lawmakers are still trying to iron out the wrinkles in the program.

4 days ago

North American hospitals are seeing a major increase -- 416% over the last two decades -- in teen m...

Alexandrea Bonilla

Decades-long study shows increase in eating disorders among young males

The study showed hospitalizations for young males with eating disorders were up 139%, and even higher in young teens.

4 days ago

Containers holding frozen embryos and sperm are stored in liquid nitrogen at a fertility clinic in ...

Jessica Lowell

The future of IVF in Utah following the Alabama Supreme Court embryo ruling

One expert says they won't know if Utah would interpret its wrongful death statute the same way Alabama did until a case came up .

4 days ago

Doctors analyze a screening of a colon...

Don Brinkerhoff

Younger colon cancer deaths are increasing significantly

Colon cancer deaths are rising and people are dying at a much younger age according to the American Cancer Society.

5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Paper straws are no better than plastic, research says