WASHINGTON – A bill introduced today in Congress would ban the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS from use in a primary source of exposure to the compounds.
Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) introduced the “Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act of 2019.” The act would ban the use of PFAS on any paper used for food wrappers or packaging, which are often coated with the grease-repellant chemicals. Specifically, Dingell’s bill would deem unsafe any PFAS used as a substance that comes into contact with food, including food packaging, cookware, and food processing and handling equipment.
“The supply chain for food packaging is awash in PFAS-coated paper that is exposing millions of Americans to these dangerous chemicals,” said EWG senior scientist David Andrews, Ph.D. “Rep. Dingell’s bill could quickly cut off one the major routes of exposure to these fluorinated compounds.”
In 2014 and 2015, Andrews was among a team of scientists who collected and tested more than 300 samples of sandwich and pastry wrappers, French fry bags, pizza boxes, and other paper and paperboard from fast food chains and local restaurants from across the U.S. Forty percent of the samples tested positive for fluorine, a likely indicator of PFAS chemicals.
Some PFAS chemicals have been linked to cancer, developmental issues, reproductive harm, compromised immune systems and other health problems. Although some PFAS chemicals, such as those formerly used to make Dupont’s Teflon and 3M’s Scotchgard, have been banned or phased out as hazardous, chemical companies have flooded the market with a new generation of fluorinated compounds that have not been adequately tested for safety.
When people eat food from PFAS-coated wrappers, they may be putting these toxic chemicals directly into their bodies. The heat and grease from foods like French fries can make it more likely that PFAS will be transferred from the wrapper to the food.
PFAS-free paper is readily available, as shown by the fact that the tests detected no fluorine in more than half of the paper samples. However, the only way to ensure that food packaging does not contain PFAS chemicals is to prohibit its use in paper products intended as food packaging.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.