Substandard Chinese Drinking Straws Are A Potential Health Hazard

Is this the last straw? Substandard drinking straws making up 80 percent of the straws sold in Shanghai can cause a host of harmful health issues when the toxic chemicals used in their manufacture leach out into hot drinks. Talk about the straw that broke the camel's back!

It's a problem few of us have ever considered: plastic straws are not only ubiquitous but they occupy a critical position in the act of drinking, being the route via which a beverage travels from outside to inside... YOUR inside. Can you trust your straws? It seems Chinese can't, and they've got good reason.
Zhou Jian, director of the Yuyuan administrative office with the Huangpu Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau, has ordered that drinking straws found hazardous to human health are to be banned from sale in Shanghai's Yuyuan Garden area. Most of the city's 23 million people use drinking straws sourced from this area, and if 80 percent of straws sold in the city are substandard, well, that's a LOT of straws!

China does have a national standard for drinking straws though the standard was only announced in 2010. As is often the case in China, laws regulating consumer products are toothless without effective enforcement and the latter is often sorely lacking.

Lou Zhongping is the president of Soton Drinking Straws, one of the largest producers in the world, and he assisted governmental authorities in drafting China's drinking straw quality standard. According to Lou, the market for drinking straws in Shanghai is dominated by substandard straws made in small underground factories. The packages of these straws either lack production information or display imitation QS (quality safety) signs.

Predictably, the cause of the ersatz straw debacle is economic: “The cost of normal straws is about three to five times those made of waste plastic,” explains Dong Jinshi, vice president of the International Food Packaging Association. Dong went on to state that “at least half of the drinking straws on the market and used by restaurants and milk tea stores are made of waste plastic with some containing industrial coloring agents.”

The new national standard bans waste plastic from being used to manufacture drinking straws but since the small underground factories are rarely investigated by authorities, they see no reason to inflate their costs.

In the meantime, unknown millions in China (and probably elsewhere as well) are obliviously enjoying beverages via substandard drinking straws. Using these substandard straws in hot and/or alcoholic drinks could result in the release of harmful substances on contact with the liquid, causing harm to the drinker's digestive system and liver. It gets worse: over time, the accumulated toxins could induce early puberty, cause infertility and lead to different types of cancer. It would seem the camel has more to worry about than just his back. (via Shanghai Daily, Examiner, Global Sources, Dayton Mom-Spot, and BabyCenter)