A recent study by Consumer Reports found PFAS present in packaging products from all popular 24 retailers they looked at.

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PFAS, are a synthetic substance chemical that is used in non-stick and stain-resistant products. They can be found everywhere, from pizza boxes to the carpet in your home. PFAS are often called “forever chemicals” because they persist in the environment.

They are currently allowed in every state except Hawaii and are found in an array of items you would never expect, like furniture, waterproof clothing, food packaging, rubbers, plastics, even dental floss.

The new independent testing revealed that more than 100 packaging products from US restaurants and grocery stores had PFAS chemicals. Even stores that are considered healthier, like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, had the chemical present in their food packaging.

The report tested sampled from 118 food packaging products and found evidence of PFAS in over half of them. Some of the levels are terrifyingly high. The “forever chemicals” were found in french fry bags, burger wrappers, salad bowls, paper plates, and even fiber trays.

PFAS has been linked to health issues like immune system suppression, lower birth weight, and increased cancer risk. Packaging made from PFAS often resembles paper or cardboard but is smooth and oil-resistant. Just like plastic, these chemicals can seep into the food or beverage that it is holding, which a study in 2021 found is even more likely when the food is fatty, salty, or acidic like most fast food is. Also, like plastic, PFAS can contaminate water and soil when they end up in landfills and when they are burned, the chemical spreads through the air.

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Many of the tested companies have at one point said they would move away from using PFAS and use much lower levels. This study is a ‘gotcha!’ moment, and these companies need to be held accountable for what they say and what they are exposing the public to through their products. There are more than 9,000 known PFAS, and current testing is only able to identify a fraction of those. The indestructible compounds are found in the air, water, our bodies, food, our homes, practically in most things in our everyday lives.

Intentionally added PFAS will be banned in California starting in January 2023 and paper food packaging much contain less than 100ppm of organic fluoride, a component of PFAS. Denmark and Consumer Report experts have agreed that 20ppm is the threshold they support, and this should be what companies are aiming for. In the report, 37 products had levels above 20ppm, and 22 were above 100ppm.

Currently, the EPA has guidelines on PFAS in drinking water but more needs to be done to keep these dangerous chemicals out of our food, water, and air.

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