- Enrique Marcarian/Reuters
- A woman in the UK died after falling on a metal drinking straw affixed to a mason-jar-style cup she was holding while at home, according to a coroner’s report.
- The freak accident raises questions about the safety of metal straws, which have grown in popularity after several US states and major corporations enacted bans against single-use plastic straws.
- The metal straw movement looks to cut down on the number of plastic straws that end up in the ocean, where they pose a danger to animals like sea turtles.
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Eco-friendly metal straws have been all the rage after several US states enacted bans against single-use plastic straws, but a tragedy in the UK might have some consumers thinking twice.
According to The Daily Echo, Elena Struthers-Gardner, a 60-year-old retired jockey known as “Lena,” suffered a fatal brain injury after she tripped and fell on a metal straw, which pierced her brain at her home in Broadstone, England.
Struthers-Gardner was carrying a mason-jar-style drinking glass with a screw-top when she stumbled while holding the beverage container, causing the 10-inch stainless-steel straw to go through her left eye socket and ultimately into her brain, according to the report.
According to The Daily Echo, the death of Struthers-Gardner prompted a coroner warning “that metal drinking straws should never be used with a lid that fixes them in place, and ‘great care should be taken’ while using them.”
Metal drinking straws have started popping up in stores and restaurants around the world following reports that single-use plastic straws are not only incapable of being recycled because of their small size, but are also especially perilous to sea animals. A viral video of a sea turtle having a plastic straw removed from its nose prompted widespread outcry that helped galvanize the “say no to plastic straws” movement.
There are two main variants of metal straws sold: rigid single-piece straws and collapsible straws. In 2016, Starbucks recalled a rigid metal straw it sold, citing “injury risk.” The type and brand of metal straw that Struthers-Gardner was using was not mentioned in the original report of the accident.
Mandy Struthers-Gardner, Lena’s wife of four years, told the coroner she didn’t immediately hear the fall when it happened in November 2018, but later found her on the ground making strange noises, the Daily Echo reported.
“I went to the kitchen door and could see Lena lying on her front at the doorway between the den and the kitchen,” Mandy Struthers-Gardner told the coroner in a statement. “She was making unusual gurgling sounds. Her glass cup was lying on the floor still intact and the straw was still in the jar.”
“I noticed the straw was sticking into her head. I called 999 and requested an ambulance,” she added.