Plastic straws are well-known for their massive environmental consequences, often finding their way into the oceans and various waterways. The issue has caused multiple cities (we’re looking at you Malibu, Seattle, and Vancouver) and even the United Kingdom to ban single-use plastic straws entirely.
But recently, a new article published in the Washington Post shined a light on another negative impact of plastic straws: their direct impact on human health. According to the author Christy Brissette—an R.D. and nutrition writer—on top of the obvious negative environmental impact, there are a number of personal health reasons to avoid plastic straws as well.
What are they, exactly? For starters, drinking through a straw can cause more air to enter the digestive system, increasing the likelihood that you’ll experience gas and bloating from whatever you’re drinking. Also on the list is an increased risk for cavities (because straws tend to send sugary and acidic beverages to certain teeth) and even wrinkles—as the regular use of straws can lead to “pucker lines,” or the same types of wrinkles that smokers get around their mouths.
According to Brissette, the chemicals plastic straws are made from should also be cause for some concern. It’s suspected that one in particular, polypropylene, can leach into water and might affect estrogen levels in humans. According to Jolene Brighten, a naturopathic doctor and founder of Rubus health, it’s a good idea to avoid eating and drinking out of plastic altogether: “It’s a common misconception that BPA-free plastics mean less of an estrogenic affect. Plastics in general pose a major threat to health by leaching endocrine disruptors (chemicals that interfere with your hormones). I recommend avoiding plastics, especially those that come into contact with your food, as often as possible.” So besides the fact that by the year 2050 the plastic in our oceans will outweigh the fish, this should serve as some added motivation to say no to plastic straws and replace them with more sustainable alternatives.