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California Assembly committee approves ban on PFAS “forever chemicals” in food packaging

AB 1200 also requires warning labels on cookware made with PFAS 

SACRAMENTO, CA – Consumer Reports praised the California Assembly Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials Committee today for approving legislation that would ban the use of PFAS ‘forever chemicals” in food packaging.  AB 1200, introduced by Assemblymember Phil Ting, also requires warning labels on cookware made with PFAS.

“PFAS chemicals are pervasive in food packaging and non-stick cookware and have been linked to serious health problems that can put consumers’ health at risk,” said Dr. Michael Hansen, PhD, senior scientist for Consumer Reports. “This bill will protect Californians by reducing their exposure to PFAS in the food they eat and by helping them to make more informed decisions when buying cookware for their homes.”

Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of more than 4,700 chemicals that are widely used and dangerous. Manufacturers use PFAS to make grease-resistant food packaging, non-stick cookware, and stain-resistant fabrics. PFAS contaminates the food it comes into contact with and can be released into the air and water when manufacturers dispose of materials containing the chemicals. A recent Consumer Reports investigation found widespread PFAS contamination in tap water in the U.S.

In a letter sent to members of the Committee in advance of its vote, Consumer Reports noted that three characteristics of PFAS make them especially dangerous to people. First, they are sometimes described as ‘forever chemicals” because they are extremely persistent, resistant to breaking down naturally in the environment and remaining in people’s bodies for years. Second, they are highly mobile, spread quickly and prevalent throughout our environment. Finally, they can be toxic at very low doses—even at parts per trillion levels, they have been associated with a variety of severe health effects, including cancer.

Some of the toxic effects associated with exposure to these chemicals include immunotoxicity, cancer, thyroid disease, birth defects, and decreased sperm quality. Exposure to PFAS chemicals can reduce the immune response to childhood vaccines and may increase the risk of infectious disease. In addition, PFAS exposure has been directly linked to several underlying conditions that make people more vulnerable to severe symptoms of COVID-19, including obesity, asthma, kidney disease, and high cholesterol.

Maine, New York, and Washington state have prohibited PFAS in food packaging and lawmakers in a number of other states are currently considering similar bans. Safer alternatives to PFAS have proven to be as effective at repelling water and grease.