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

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

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

EU shapes its ambitious strategy on India

We need natural solutions to fight ocean and climate risk

‘Nothing left to go back for’: UN News hears extraordinary stories of loss, and survival as Mozambique rebuilds from deadly cyclones

MEPs list conditions for new EU-Azerbaijan deal

38th ACP-EU Assembly: dialogue on cooperation challenges in Kigali

Have Europe’s Ukrainian wounds begun to heal?

Paris, Washington, IMF against Berlin and ECB on money and interest

This entrepreneur built an island resort out of plastic waste

This company grows crops inside, stacked on top of one another

Monday’s Daily Brief: US-DPRK relationship reset, ‘Horrific’ Kabul bombing, Anti-conscription plan in Syria, Climate change heat stress, Security Council in Iraq

More women than ever before are running for political office in the US

Brexit: UK to suffer from EU’s uncompromising stance

A new bioeconomy strategy for a sustainable Europe

Europe enters uncharted waters with Kiev-Moscow standoff

JADE Testimonial #2: Jacques @ Process mapping

This start-up is 3D-printing an entire neighbourhood in Mexico

European Commission increases support for the EU’s beekeeping sector

Here are 6 big ideas to help the environment

The world is getting angrier, according to a new poll

Civilians ‘continue to pay highest price’ in Ukraine conflict, with peace prospects losing ‘momentum’

Time to make a fundamental choice about the future of healthcare

Ambassador Zhang Ming: “Work Together for a Better Globalization”

Lessons from the Global Entrepreneurship Index

Wednesday’s Daily Brief: updates from the Near East and Libya, Ebola in DR Congo, World War remembrance

Safer roads: EU lawmakers agree on life-saving technologies for new vehicles

Saudi Arabia must halt air strikes in Yemen, says UN panel

Draghi strives to control the unruly exploitation of financial markets by banking leviathans

Main results of European Council of 18/10/2018

Last-chance Commission: Why Juncker promised investments of €300 billion?

Ahead of street protests, UN rights chief urges Guatemalan Government to respect democratic freedoms

The Franco-German axis considers that all EU needs now is more armaments

5 ways Coca-Cola is cleaning up its plastic footprint in Africa

At UN forum, Asia-Pacific countries highlight importance of transport for sustainable development

Children are so hungry in one British town they are eating from bins

GSMA Mobile 360 Series – Latin America, in association with The European Sting

These 8 countries have perfect scores for women’s rights at work

China repels EU allegations of export subsidies

Advocate General ‘outlaws’ Data Retention Directive

Millions of Bangladeshi children at risk from climate crisis, warns UNICEF

Wolfgang Schäuble: “Without European unification, there would be no German unity”

The ECB accuses the politicians of inaction, continues injecting billions to banks

This young activist explains how to change the world in 3 steps

Refugees now make up 1% of the world’s population

Social, cultural diversity ‘an enormous richness, not a threat’ Guterres declares calling on investment for a harmonious future

Why economic growth depends on closing the interview gap

Top UN rights official urges transparent probe into Khashoggi disappearance

Sudan: New political transition, bolstered by peacebuilding, could bring long-term stability to Darfur, Security Council told

Sweden gives all employees time off to be entrepreneurs

How can consumers be effectively protected from insurance sellers?

Be a part of the World Forum on Future Trends in Defence and Security

IMF cuts global growth outlook, but predicts pick up later in 2019

Education critical to ensure future of forests, and reverse their destruction

Germany objects to EU Commission’s plan for a Eurozone bank deposits insurance scheme but Berlin could go along

EU Commission announces Safe Harbour 2.0 and a wider Data protection reform

Business is a crucial partner in solving the mental health challenge

Human trafficking cases hit a 13-year record high, new UN report shows

230 Junior Entrepreneurs and over 70 guests attended the International Congress on “Entrepreneurial Skills for Youth”

Primary Healthcare should be strongly connected with initial education

3 lessons from India in creating equal access to vaccines

MEPs adopt plan to keep 2020 EU funding for UK in no-deal Brexit scenario

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