Eco-friendly Alternatives to Plastic Straws May Prove More Hazardous to Health and Environment

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) detected in most commercially available drinking straws.

by | May 29, 2023


The presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food contact materials (FCMs), such as drinking straws, has raised concerns due to their potential toxicity and persistence.

In a recent study published in the journal Food Additives and Contaminants, a comprehensive investigation of PFAS concentrations in various types of commercially available straws was conducted, including paper, bamboo, glass, plastic, and stainless steel. PFAS migration from FCMs to food and drinks, along with potential sources of contamination, were examined.

The results revealed that PFAS was present in most straws, with paper-based straws showing the highest concentrations. Notably, ultra-short chain PFAS were identified through suspect screening analysis, indicating potential non-intentional additions. Stainless steel straws appeared as the most sustainable option, devoid of PFAS and reusable. The findings emphasize the need for further research on PFAS in FCMs, their impact on human health, and the overall sustainability of alternative straw materials.


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of over 12,000 man-made chemicals known for their water-repellent and fire-resistant properties. These properties make them widely used in various industrial applications. However, PFAS are persistent, accumulative, and potentially toxic to both humans and the environment. Human exposure primarily occurs through food, drinking water, and food contact materials (FCMs) such as packaging and reusable plastic bags.

PFAS Migration from FCMs

PFAS can migrate from food contact materials into food during storage, especially when exposed to high temperatures and fatty foods. Previous studies have shown migration of PFAS from FCMs, increases human dietary exposure. The extent of migration depends on factors like the type and amount of PFAS, type of food, contact duration, and temperature.

Novel Findings on PFAS in Plant-Based Straws

In this recent study, researchers highlighted the presence of PFAS in plant-based straws. This study extended the research by examining commercially available straws in Belgium, including bamboo, glass, stainless steel, and plastic straws, in addition to paper. The researchers used targeted and suspect screening analyses to identify PFAS compounds.

Analysis Methodology

Straws of different materials were collected, and samples were homogenized before analysis. The extraction process involved multiple steps, including solvent extraction, centrifugation, and drying. The samples were then subjected to Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography Tandem Mass Spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS) for targeted PFAS analysis. Additionally, suspect screening using high-resolution mass spectrometry was conducted to identify non-targeted or emerging PFAS compounds.

Results and Discussion

Target Analysis: PFAS were detected predominantly in paper-based straws, with various compounds found. PFCAs were the most prevalent PFAS, with PFOA being the dominant component. Bamboo, glass, and stainless-steel straws had lower PFAS concentrations, and plastic straws showed varied PFAS presence.

Suspect Screening: This technique identified two ultra-short chain PFAS, trifluoroacetic acid (TFA) and trifluoromethanesulfonic acid (TFMS), not detected in the target analysis. These compounds are highly water-soluble and potentially migrate into drinks.

Non-Intentional Addition of PFAS: Straws made from plant-based materials, like paper, might contain PFAS due to non-intentional sources, such as recycled contaminated fibers or soil contamination from biosolids. This suggests that “eco-friendly” plant-based straws may contribute to PFAS pollution issues.


PFAS were found in various types of straws, especially those made from plant-based materials. Plant-based straws, often marketed as eco-friendly alternatives, might not be sustainable due to potential PFAS contamination. Stainless steel straws, which do not contain PFAS and are reusable, appear to be a more sustainable option. This study highlights the need for further research into PFAS presence in FCMs and their potential risks to human health and the environment.

Contact Laboratory Can Help You

Contract Laboratory can help your company with all types of PFAS testing by connecting you with our network of certified testing labs. Submit a free test request on or call us toll-free at 1-855-377-6821.

See more PFAS test requests here.


  • Trevor Henderson BSc (HK), MSc, PhD (c), is the Creative Services Director for the Laboratory Products Group at LabX Media Group. He has more than three decades of experience in the fields of scientific and technical writing, editing, and creative content creation. With academic training in the areas of human biology, physical anthropology, and community health, he has a broad skill set of both laboratory and analytical skills. Since 2013, he has been working with LabX Media Group developing content solutions that engage and inform scientists and laboratorians.

    View all posts Director, Creative Services - LabX Media Group

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