You probably don’t think too much about it, even though you use one every day when you’re thirsty: The straw. The lowly straw. It sticks up out of our soft drinks and even plastic water bottles. But, there is some evidence that not only is it unhealthy, it’s unnecessary.
Here are what some experts believe you should be doing differently when you sip.
They Cause Wrinkles
When you suck every drink, or even a majority of them, through a straw, you might be avoiding staining your teeth, but you’re also adding to your frown lines and wrinkles around your mouth. The constant sucking action is to blame. Pursing your lips to suck through a straw draws the mouth closed. Using those muscles over and over again is stretching out certain areas around your mouth, and causing those areas to sag. Over time, as you lose elasticity in and around your mouth, the effect becomes more pronounced.
It Can Cause Cavities
Most people use straws to either avoid drinks staining their teeth, to minimize the risk of cavities whilst drinking sugary drinks, or just because it’s fun and convenient. But, unless you put the straw in the right area in your mouth, you might actually be doing more harm than good.
When you drink through a straw, you’re focusing all the water (if it’s sugary water, sugar) onto one place. Kids are especially vulnerable to this, so keep the straws out of their mouths.
And, while you’re at it, get them to drink more water. If you’re worried about the purity of your water, invest in The Berkey.
You’re Sucking In Air
If you have digestive issues, one thing that’s contributing to them is your sucking through a straw. That’s because you’re not just sucking up liquid. You’re taking in a lot of air, too. This can cause gas and bloating.
Water Bottles Aren’t Any Better
According to Ban The Bottle, Americans use roughly 50 billion plastic water bottles each and every year. This translates into a little over $1 billion in plastic, and waste. But, Americans also recycle these plastics. Unfortunately, we only recycle roughly ¼ of the plastic used. The rest of it goes into a landfill and adds to the plastic pollution.
Some of this pollution ends up in our waterways and negatively impacts our life. Obviously this isn’t a good thing.
The First Straws
The first straws were made from rye grass and were used by beer-drinking Sumerians to filter solid particles out of their drink. In 1888, Marvin Stone patented the spiral winding process for manufacturing the first wax-coated paper drinking straw.
In the 1900s, modern machinery gave companies the ability to produce automated spiral-wound straws which opened the door for the invention of plastic straws.
Plastics In Straws
There are quite a few different types of straws, including the classic fast food straw. The first plastic straws were made with polystyrene #6 plastics. Polypropylene (#5) or polyethylene (#2) are more often used today because they’re stronger and resist cracking.
Most of the concern surrounding plastic straws is the toxic substances in them. People are concerned about BPA, and other chemicals, for example. While the risk of actually ingesting plasticizers is low, there’s no doubt that the risk is there, especially if you drink hot beverages with a straw, or you leave your cup out in the sun a little too long and the plastic goes soft.
Most of the current straws on the market are made from #2 and #5 plastics, which reduces the chemical exposures since these plastics have low toxicity.
But, the environmental impact is huge, since most people don’t recycle their straws. For example, McDonald’s served 50 million meals in 2008 alone. Almost none of those straws were recycled. That means they ended up in a landfill somewhere.
You need to drink water, so what are you supposed to do? Well, conscious consumers are switching away from plastic straws and using one of a few alternatives. One such alternative is a glass straw. Some companies have taken to making near-unbreakable glass straws that are reusable.
Another option is to drink from a reusable stainless steel water bottle, or simply drink water out of the tap. Yet another option, if you’re concerned about your water quality, is to drink filtered water.
A filtered water solution solves numerous problems and eliminates waste from plastic bottles and straws. Best of all, the filters for most commercial units can be replaced and the filters recycled.
Walter J Mcdaniel has worked in the importing Home and Garden products business for over 7 years. He has a B.S. in business from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He has worked in Asia and Europe before he established his own company. He enjoys sharing his insights online.