The unpleasant truth of plastic straws

straws 2019

(Unsplash, 2019)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Jonathan Salim, a medical student from Pelita Harapan University, Indonesia. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Since its invention, straw has become a useful tool in quenching your insatiable thirst. It helps in delivering beverages into your oral cavity, hence drinking. However, unbeknownst to the public, straws utilization actually carries huge environmental and healthcare risks as well.

Study on factors influencing aspiration during swallowing in healthy older adults, revealed that Penetration and Aspiration Scores are significantly higher (p = 0.04) in those who use straw. Cup has 4.63% decrement on penetration rate and 0.45% on aspiration rate compared to straw. Furthermore, straw can also induce aerophagia, which triggers moderate-to-severe abdominal pain, frequent belching, nausea and/or vomiting.

Structurally speaking, straw is composed on lethal components such as Bisphenol A (BPA) and Polypropylene (PP). A test conducted by Newbold et al. portrays that early exposure of BPA (BPA-0.1 and BPA-1) in mice has increased the number of preneoplastic and neoplastic lesion in the reproductive tract (p = 0.01 and p = 0.03 respectively).

Similarly, Kharrazian et al. shown that in human trials BPA have an effect in autoimmune disease pathogenesis. The chemical act on biotransformation pathway to reduced glutathione, which led to activation of NF-kB (a stimulus precursor for systemic immunity), and thus autoimmune overexpression and illness.

Likewise, BPA and PP also have been proven to express estrogenic activity (EA) with the estrogen receptor dependent pathways. The agonist and/or antagonist mechanism will trigger the ERa and ERb which induce modulation in immune system as secondary signaling. Eventually, the chemicals accumulation can lead to increase risk in infertility, precocious puberty, hormone-dependent tumor, and polycystic ovary syndrome.

Aside from the putrid healthcare issue, straws been vindicated on environmental turmoil.

Li H et al study that just in China, >1 billion tons of straw are produced. Nevertheless, enormous amounts are discarded without effectively used. Market research firm of Freedonia Group reported that the U.S. used about 390 million straws daily.

Those absurd straws quantity scar the nature with its toughness to be recycled, biodegraded, and proneness to wildlife damage. Straws are mainly composed of type 5 plastic, polypropylene. This kind of material is hard to be recycled due to its polymer composition unsuitable on common recycling program.

Moreover, numerous plastic straws types are not biodegradable, just degradable. The straws can be broken down into tiny invisible molecules; however, the molecules cannot be digested by microorganism and recycled back to nature. Nonetheless, the time for the degradation process is very substantial as it needs 200-1000 years with an average of 450 years.

Do you know that you are killing wild animals when littering? Ocean Conservancy Trash Information and Data for Education and Solutions (TIDES) depict that plastics are among the top ten ocean trash with 1489945 (3.14%) being straws and stirrers. The vast amount of straws and other plastics pose immediate threat to the marine life.

Chiefly, the harmful healthcare and environmental issues strongly paint the horrid impact of plastics and straws within global consumption. Let’s make a change by reducing straw usage. A step for a better future.

About the author

Jonathan Salim is from CIMSA–ISMKI Indonesia. In 2018/2019, he is entrusted with the position of SCORE project coordinator (PC) in an active NMO of IFMSA, CIMSA-ISMKI. During his term, he did research and clinical exchanges at the ophthalmology department of Semmelweis University, Hungary. Simultaneously, for his academic background, his medical clinical years shall begin on January 2019 last quarter at Pelita Harapan University, Indonesia.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Chart of the day: When do young Europeans leave home?

Connected Claims returns to London in 2018

Gaza probe finds ‘reasonable grounds’ Israeli forces committed international human rights violations

No agreement in sight on EU budget

The EU checks the multinationals for tax fraud but Britain may sail out of the EU via Panama

Schengen is losing ground fast revealing Europe’s clear inability to deal with migration crisis

The Impact of climates changes in health: a problem for all of us

Brexit: Ensuring a smooth transition for car producers and safety on the roads

‘Race against time’ to help women who bore brunt of Cyclone Idai: UN reproductive health agency

France is about to start giving free breakfasts to disadvantaged schoolchildren

How secure is blockchain?

We have to learn to trust Artificial Intelligence. Here’s how

Humanitarian visas would reduce refugees’ death toll

Eurozone stuck in a high risk deflation area; Draghi expects further price plunge

EntEx Organises 5 Summer Schools for Young Entrepreneurs across Europe in June/July 2014

As children in Ebola-affected areas of DR Congo head back to school, UNICEF ramps up support

Cocaine and opium production worldwide hit ‘absolute record highs’ – major threat to public health says UN study

Youth Entrepreneurship Issue of the month: JEN, organisers of JADE October Meeting, on why JEs should come together

Scientists are growing meat on blades of grass

Japan should reform retirement policies to meet challenge of ageing workforce

The miserables and the untouchables of the economic crisis

A Sting Exclusive: “Cybersecurity: Why consumer products must be looked at urgently”, by BEUC’s Deputy Director General

Global climate change: consequences for human health in Brazilian cities

Brexit kick-off: a historic day for the EU anticlockwise

Eurozone: Black economy loves the South

EU: Protecting victims’ rights from cartels and market abuses

European car industry: The Germans want it all

Single-use plastics: New EU rules to reduce marine litter

Trying to cure bank cancer with analgesics

If we can build the International Space Station, ‘we can do anything’ – UN Champion for Space

Trump’s Russian affair spills over and upsets Europe

Failing to see reality or deceiving the masses? The EU about poverty and social exclusion

COP21 Breaking News_03 December: UNFCCC Secretariat Launches Forest Information Hub

Parliament commemorates the victims of the Holocaust

Global growth is slowing amid rising trade and financial risks

Women in Iceland have walked out of work to dispute the gender pay gap

Who may profit from the rise of the extreme right in the West?

A Sting Exclusive: “Stronger Cybersecurity for a safer EU against cybercrime and cyber threats”, by MEP Dalli

Interview with ourselves: the mental health of health professionals

At COP24, countries agree concrete way forward to bring the Paris climate deal to life

Why the UN is investigating poverty in the United Kingdom

ISIL’s ‘legacy of terror’ in Iraq: UN verifies over 200 mass graves

The West and Russia accomplished the dismembering and the economic destruction of Ukraine

Three ways China can make the New Silk Road sustainable

China is a renewable energy champion. But it’s time for a new approach

Brexit negotiations: Can May’s Britain bounce back?

Here are three technology trends changing the way you travel

Colombia: New Congress marks rebel group’s transition ‘from weapons to politics’, says UN

MWC19 Wrap Up, in association with The European Sting, GSMA’s Brussels Media Partner for the 6th Consecutive Year

Peru should help more young vulnerable people into work

The EU Parliament blasts the Council about the tax dealings of the wealthy

Greek citizens to pay the price again but Tsipras risks losing next elections

Chart of the day: These countries have the largest carbon footprints

European Parliament and Eurovision sign partnership for European Elections

France is building a village for people with Alzheimer’s

Bankruptcy or referendum: which one is going to be first?

Estonia is making public transport free

MEPs urge EU states to ensure better care of transported animals

A Sting Exclusive: “Cybersecurity Act for safer European Industries and Consumers against cyberthreats”, by MEP Niebler

More than one billion people do not have access to electricity. What will it take to get them connected?

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s