New law also requires warning labels on cookware made with PFAS chemicals
SACRAMENTO, CA – California has become the seventh state to ban the use of PFAS “forever chemicals” in food packaging now that Governor Gavin Newsom has signed legislation passed by state lawmakers in September that prohibits such use. The new law also requires warning labels on cookware like pots and pans made with PFAS.
California joins Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington in banning PFAS in food packaging. Safer alternatives to PFAS have proven to be just as effective at repelling water and grease.
“PFAS chemicals are commonly found in food packaging and non-stick cookware and have been linked to cancer, birth defects, and other serious health problems,” said Dr. Michael Hansen, PhD, senior scientist for Consumer Reports. “This new law will help protect Californians from exposure to PFAS by preventing these dangerous substances from ending up in our environment, water supply and bodies. While it is encouraging that more and more states are taking action to limit public exposure to PFAS, it’s time for Congress to step up and protect all Americans from these hazardous forever chemicals.”
Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of more than 4,700 chemicals that are very widespread and dangerous. Manufacturers use PFAS to make grease-resistant food packaging, non-stick cookware, and stain-resistant fabrics. PFAS in food packaging and wrappers can contaminate the food it comes into contact with and leach into the water supply when it is disposed of in landfills.
Three characteristics of PFAS make it 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, spreading 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. PFAS exposure can reduce the immune response to childhood vaccines and may increase the risk of infectious disease. In addition, it 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.
In July, the House of Representatives passed the PFAS Action Act of 2021, which designates PFOA (perfluoroalkyl) and PFOS (polyfluoroalkyl) as hazardous substances under the Superfund program and requires the EPA to mandate the cleanup of sites contaminated with the two PFAS chemicals. Within five years, the EPA would be required to determine whether the remaining PFAS chemicals should be designated as hazardous substances requiring cleanup.
In addition, the bill requires the EPA to adopt a drinking water standard under the Safe Drinking Water Act for certain PFAS to ensure the public is protected, particularly pregnant women, infants, and children. The legislation also sets PFAS air emission limits, prohibits unsafe incineration of PFAS, and restricts the introduction of new PFAS chemicals into commerce.