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FDA announces PFAS-containing fast food wrappers no longer being sold in US

Posted at 5:24 PM, Feb 29, 2024

(WXYZ) — In today's Health Alert, the FDA announced that fast-food wrappers containing PFAS are no longer being sold in the U.S. Phasing out of these substances, known as "forever" chemicals, will eliminate a key source of dietary exposure for Americans.

PFAS has been linked to various health effects.

PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. They're a group of chemicals used on paper and paperboard packaging. Their popularity comes from being grease-proofing substances. When applied to products, they prevent grease, water, and other fluids from leaking and making a big mess. And that's why the chemicals were commonly used on items like take-out paperboard containers, pizza boxes, fast-food wrappers, and microwave popcorn bags.

Now, while PFAS seemed like a good solution for preventing packaging problems, they also posed potential health risks to humans. That's because PFAS are also toxic. Many have been found in the blood of people and animals worldwide. And this is a huge concern because they can stick to proteins that carry hormones, antibodies and cholesterol. Research indicates PFAS may affect reproduction, thyroid function, and the immune system and injure the liver. And some have been linked to diabetes, obesity, lower birth weights and some cancers.

The FDA mentioned it might take up to eighteen months before the current stock is phased out. But the good news is that many fast-food companies have already stopped using PFAS-containing wrappers. That's because the FDA convinced some food manufacturers to start phasing them out in 2020.

While it's a positive step that these forever chemicals won't be used in food packaging anymore, there's still a drawback. Even though FDA studies showed that food packaging was a significant source of dietary exposure to PFAS, people can still be exposed in other ways. That's because PFAS can be found in low levels in our environment, especially in water. Also, research suggests these chemicals may build up in animal tissues, potentially ending up in meat, milk, and eggs.

To reduce exposure, check if your water is affected by looking at maps from the Environmental Protection Agency. If yes, consider using water filters to help remove these chemicals. You can also cut back on meat and dairy. However, I must say that it's not realistic to think you can avoid all PFAS exposure, just because these chemicals are so widespread.

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