A woman in England died after falling onto a reusable metal straw, which pierced her head.
And the tragic incident has renewed debate over bans on plastic straws.
The woman, 60-year-old Elena Struthers-Gardner, was carrying a glass with a 10-inch-long stainless-steel straw when she fell and the straw impaled her eye, causing fatal brain injuries.
Struthers-Gardner had scoliosis, or a sideways curvature of the spine, which made her prone to falls.
Struthers-Gardner died in November, and a coroner’s report on her accidental death was released last week.
Plastic straw ban
Several U.S. cities and states have already banned plastic straws to reduce the plastic entering the environment, and a similar ban is set to take effect in England in April 2020.
But the bans have sparked concern among people with disabilities and their advocates, who say the bans make straws unavailable for those with disabilities who rely on straws to drink. In addition, the rigidity of reusable metal straws may pose safety risks.
“I just feel that in the hands of mobility-challenged people like Elena [Struthers-Gardner], or children, or even able-bodied people losing their footing, these [straws] are so long and very strong,” Mandy Struthers-Gardner, Elena’s wife, said in a statement. “Even if they don’t end a life, they can be very dangerous.“
In 2016, Starbucks recalled 2.5 million stainless-steel straws due to reports of young children who experienced mouth lacerations from using the straws.
Brendan Allen, the assistant coroner involved in Struthers-Gardner’s case, also warned about the potential dangers of metal straws. “Clearly, great care should be taken when using these metal straws. There is no give in them at all,” Allen said.
He added that in this case, the metal straw may have been particularly hazardous because it was used with a lid that prevented the straw from moving. “It seems to me these metal straws should not be used with any form of lid that holds them in place,” Allen said. “It seems the main problem here is if the lid hadn’t been in place the straw would have moved away.“
There’s clearly a risk using these rigid metal straws. I would not give any to my children.