The internet has had plenty to say about how thirsty paper towels are.
A study last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly two-thirds of Americans said they were at least moderately thirsty.
But that study didn’t look at how many of them were actually using paper towels.
A new study from the University of Missouri-Columbia suggests that paper towels may actually be thirsty.
Researchers analyzed data from 1.2 million people who filled their paper towels at home and then took a beverage measuring device, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reports.
They found that the people who were least thirsty when they filled their towels with paper towels were the most likely to use paper towels for drinking, and the most thirsty when the paper towels went to the bathroom.
“We found that people were drinking more paper towels if they used them for drinking than if they were using them to rinse off,” says lead researcher Anupam Gupta.
The results have implications for how we handle paper towels, says Gupta, who is also an associate professor in the MU-Columbian College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
“We should make sure that paper towel consumption is a habit, and not just a hobby, as we use them for cleaning, so that we don’t actually waste paper towels.”
The paper towel has long been a popular way to clean up after your dinner party, and is also a popular source of personal care products.
The CDC estimates that Americans use more paper towel than any other item in their home, according to the American Journal of Public Health.
It is not surprising that paper is thirsty, says Linda H. Kowalski, a professor of health and social policy at the University at Buffalo and the director of the UB Center for Sustainable Living and Health.
“People need to be aware of what they are putting in their mouths, because paper towels can be a really bad way to consume,” she says.
“If you are not making sure that you use paper as a cleaning product, then it’s just going to be sitting there for you, and you might not be getting the health benefits of paper towel use,” Kowingski says.
The findings could have an impact on the paper towel industry, Kowinski says, noting that the average household paper towel contains more than 100 different ingredients, including cleaning products, lubricants and pesticides.
If more paper was being used for drinking instead of for the paper, Koweinski cautions, it could potentially reduce paper towels’ shelf life and decrease their effectiveness as a sanitizer.
While the study did not examine the health effects of paper towels specifically, Kogalski says the researchers have found a link between paper towel usage and obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
“This paper towel study shows that it is not just the amount of paper you use that affects health outcomes,” she adds.
“This paper towels effect can have a lot of impacts on the overall environment and the environment in general.”
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