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Consumer Reports praises New York legislature’s vote to ban PFAS in food packaging

Bill aims to protect New Yorkers from exposure to harmful chemicals 

ALBANY, NYLegislation approved by the New York state legislature today will help protect consumers from the harmful effects of a dangerous class of chemicals linked to serious health problems, according to Consumer Reports.  The bill, sponsored by Assemblymember Patricia Fahy (A. 4739) and Senator Brad Hoylman (S. 8817), bans the sale or distribution of food packaging that contains per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

“Consumers should avoid exposure to PFAS chemicals as much as possible because of the growing body of evidence that exposure can be hazardous to their health,” said Dr. Michael Hansen, PhD, senior scientist for Consumer Reports.  “This legislation will help protect New Yorkers by decreasing PFAS contamination of food and reducing the amount that winds up in our air and drinking water.  We urge Governor Cuomo to make New York a leader in the effort to reduce public exposure to these hazardous chemicals by signing this bill into law.”

PFAS chemicals have been in wide use since at least the 1950s and studies of the U.S. population have found them in 95 percent of all people tested. Some manufacturers add PFAS to food packaging to make it water and grease-resistant.  It also contaminates the food it comes into contact with and can be released into the environment when manufacturers dispose materials containing the chemicals.  The Food and Drug Administration recently reported that it had detected PFAS in a variety of foods purchased around the country, including produce, meats and seafood, and chocolate cake.  People are exposed to PFAS when they consume food or drinking water contaminated with the chemicals.

Studies have shown that exposure to PFAS chemicals is associated with immunotoxicity, cancer, thyroid disease, birth defects, and decreased sperm quality.  PFAS exposure reduces 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.

If Governor Cuomo signs the PFAS ban into law, New York will join Washington state and Maine, which have already prohibited PFAS in food packaging.  Safer alternatives to PFAS have proven to be as effective at repelling water and grease.

Michael McCauley, michael.mccauley@consumer.org, 415-902-9537