Maybe plastic straws are not so bad after all. At least when compared to the potential for death when using a metal straw.
A 60-year-old British woman named Elena Struthers-Gardner died after falling onto the metal straw she was drinking from and it impaled her eye. According to USA Today, Struthers-Gardner, also known as Lena, was carrying a mason jar–style glass that was attached to a screw-top lid and metal straw when she collapsed at her home last November. The 10-inch stainless steel straw entered her left eye socket, subsequently piercing her brain.
Struthers-Gardner had been a retired disc jockey who competed in equestrian sports until a fall at age 21 derailed her career. She suffered multiple spinal fractures from the injury and had been prone to randomly collapsing “like a sack of potatoes,” according to her wife of four years, Mandy Struthers-Gardner.
Mandy was at home when Struthers-Gardner collapsed, but didn’t hear the fall when it happened. “I went to the kitchen door and could see Lena lying on her front at the doorway between the den and the kitchen. She was making unusual gurgling sounds,” Mandy said in a statement, adding that the glass cup was on the floor, still intact, and that the straw was “still in the jar.” A truly nightmarish image. Mandy called for an ambulance, but Struthers-Gardner ended up passing away due to the injury.
After the incident, the coroner issued a warning for people using metal straws due to their lack of give, saying to take caution with cups that have stationary lids. He pointed out that if the lid hadn’t been in place, the straw might have moved away when she fell.
Since data has come out about the environmental harm caused by plastic straws, which take 200 years to break down, people have been choosing to opt for more sustainable alternatives. However, there has been backlash from disability groups who say plastic straws are needed for people with disabilities, and that reusable and metal straws pose safety and hygiene risks.