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This infographic did the rounds a while back:

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EDp5P1cW4AAz4xm.jpg:large

The left column indicates the material the straws are made of.

Amongst other things, it claims that the following materials have Allergy Risks:

  • Metal
  • Paper
  • Silicone
  • Acrylic
  • Rice/Pasta
  • Bamboo
  • 'Biodegradable'

Whereas these materials don't:

  • Glass
  • Single-use (which I assume to mean "regular plastic")


I've come across the concept of silicone and rice/pasta allergies, but hadn't come across the others before.

It seems entirely plausible that there could be tiny populations with allergies to metal, paper, acrylic or bamboo. And it seems pretty intuitive that glass is sufficiently inert to not produce allergies.

But it seems very unlikely that there wouldn't ALSO be people with allergies to regular plastic.

Is there evidence to back these claims?

  • Just to be clear, you're asking about the claim that plastic straws are hypoallergenic right? The infographic seems to make a binary distinction between various materials having an associated allergy or not. – DenisS Oct 24 at 13:49
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    Strange information. One category is "Hard to Sanitize", but it really should be "Need to Sanitize" with the Xs reversed. Another is "Dissolve w/ Long Use", which sounds more like a good attribute than a bad one. – Ray Butterworth Oct 24 at 14:01
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    Also, claiming that "paper is not safe for Hot liquids" ... but plastic is? – Reinstate Monica --Brondahl-- Oct 24 at 14:50
  • @DenisS yes, that's right. Not asking about any of the other columns, just the "Does / doesn't cause allergies". And yes, it clearly ought to be talking about the frequency of allergies, rather than a binary Y/N, but since it HAS gone with Y/N ... – Reinstate Monica --Brondahl-- Oct 24 at 14:51
  • @ReinstateMonica--Brondahl- The plastic stirrer straws are meant to go in coffee. Idk about paper. – Laurel Oct 27 at 13:01
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Plastic straws

I can't find any evidence that plastic straws can trigger an allergy. Plastic straws are very popular, so this might say something. Or it may not.

Metal straws

Depending on the metal, these can trigger a nickel allergy, which is a pretty common allergy (though people vary in sensitivity).

Healthline explicitly mentions "stainless steel cooking equipment and eating utensils" as something that can contain nickel and trigger a reaction on their page for nickel allergy. Plastic phobia is upfront about it: "Our steel straws contain nickel which is great for corrosion resistance so do take precautions if you are allergic to nickel."

Paper straws

Some people believe some paper straws contain gluten. Even some organizations believe that there are paper straws that contain gluten (and there's a response there from a person who claims to have reacted to the gluten in a certain type of paper straw).

I don't know if any paper straws have gluten in them (and even then, if it would be enough to cause a reaction), but it does look like there are safe paper straws. The National Celiac Association hasn't found any paper straws that contain gluten. For a specific example, Aardvark Straws says that their straws "have not been found to have any known allergens. They are used in various hospitals because of this." (Also, Aardvark makes bendy paper straws, so the graphic isn't entirely accurate in this respect either.)

Acrylic straws

Acrylates in acrylic nails can cause an allergic reaction, but I don't know about straws as I haven't found any solid proof one way or the other.

Bamboo straws

I can't find any evidence of bamboo straws specifically causing problems, but I did find evidence that some people have a contact reaction to bamboo. See the sources here: Thermo Scientific. Also: Contact dermatitis caused by bamboo.

  • There was previously an answer from someone who suffered from plastic allergies, citing the details of their allergy. Alas that answer appears to have been deleted (perhaps because personal experience isn't appropriate in this SE? IDK, I don't spend so much time in this SE.) You have a high rep; does that let you get at deleted answers? If so, could you post the sections that cite the details of the allergies as a comment, so that other can use it as a jumping-off point? – Reinstate Monica --Brondahl-- Oct 26 at 6:40
  • Nice answer, setting the base-line for the claim that other materials cause allergies, though! – Reinstate Monica --Brondahl-- Oct 26 at 6:41
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    Nickel allergy's being "a pretty common allergy" is somewhat surprising. 4 of Canada's 5 most common coins are plated with 99% nickel. If it's true that "17% of women" are allergic to nickel, why haven't we heard from those 3 million Canadian women with allergies? I'm not saying nickel allergy doesn't exist, only that (except for those few individuals that actually suffer from it) it can't be anywhere near as significant as stated. – Ray Butterworth Oct 26 at 13:10
  • "Aardvark makes bendy paper straws" ... I have tried those Aardvark straws. The bendiness is somewhat less useful than the bendiness of plastic straws. But I do seem to recall from my childhood (1950s) that there were really good bendy paper straws. – GEdgar Oct 26 at 13:30
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    @RayButterworth We live in the US but my mom has a nickel allergy and she says that she handles nickel-containing coins as briefly as possible. I would guess that most women discover they have the allergy through jewelry, which is hours of skin contact. Like all allergies, the severity of the reaction varies. – Laurel Oct 26 at 13:55

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