Skip to main content

PFAS in the news

Want single-use foodware without harmful chemicals? A new certification will help you find it.

By PFAS in the news

“Here’s a secret about single-use foodware: brands and manufacturers don’t have to tell what’s in it, and in some cases, they don’t even know.

This presents a challenge for safety-conscious consumers of takeout containers, disposable cups, and similar materials who are hoping to avoid chemicals like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), bisphenols, phthalates, and other less high-profile compounds.

But the nonprofit organizations Clean Production Action, based in Massachusetts, and Center for Environmental Health, based in California, both advocates of chemical safety in consumer products, believe they have a solution: the first-ever independent, third-party chemical screening and certification program for disposable foodware. Private consumers and institutional buyers can use the program to inform purchasing decisions. Read more…

REI earns ‘F’ grade in new scorecard on toxic “forever chemicals” commitments by major retailers

By PFAS in the news

SEATTLE, WA—Today, NRDC, Fashion FWD, and U.S. PIRG Education Fund released a scorecard ranking PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) policy commitments from 30 popular retail and apparel brands, giving REI a failing ‘F’ grade for its incomplete commitment that excluded many PFAS (also known as ‘forever chemicals’). Conversely, competitor Patagonia earned a ‘B’—the highest grade of all the outdoor apparel brands surveyed—and is the only outdoor brand with a commitment to phase out all PFAS in all products by 2024.

Today’s scorecard follows Toxic-Free Future’s original testing, which made national headlines in January 2022, finding PFAS in most stain- and water-resistant products—including items purchased at REI and other retailers. The announcement also follows a peer-reviewed study led by scientists at Toxic-Free Future, the University of Washington, and Indiana University that found PFAS in 100% of breast milk samples tested and that newer PFAS build up in people. Toxic-Free Future’s September 2021 investigative report revealed that a U.S. PFAS manufacturing facility is a major source of both PFAS pollution and ozone-depleting chemicals that contribute to health problems and climate change. Read more…

Scientists sound alarm at US regulator’s new ‘forever chemicals’ definition

By PFAS in the news

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) department responsible for protecting the public from toxic substances is working under a new definition of PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ that excludes some of their widely used compounds.

The new ‘working definition’, established by the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, is not only at odds with much of the scientific world, but is narrower than that used by other EPA departments.

Among other uses, the narrower definition excludes chemicals in pharmaceuticals and pesticides that are generally defined as PFAS. The EPA also cited the narrower definition in December when it declined to take action on some PFAS contamination found in North Carolina. Read more…

Starbucks announces ban of toxic “forever chemicals” in its food packaging

By PFAS in the news

On March 15, 2022, international coffee giant Starbucks announced its first-ever commitment to eliminate toxic PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in its food packaging materials. As part of the company’s new sustainable packaging policy, the transition away from these dangerous chemicals in its food packaging materials will be complete in the U.S. by the end of 2022. Starbucks has more than 15,000 U.S. stores and 34,000 stores worldwide and is the second biggest quick-service restaurant chain in the U.S.

The company stated: ‘By the end of this year, we will have eliminated PFAS from all packaging in the U.S. and will eliminate PFAS globally in 2023.’

Though the company’s announcement comes after similar commitments by other major restaurant chains, their timeline is faster than many—including McDonald’sBurger King, and Taco Bell that have made commitments to phase out PFAS in food packaging by 2025. Wendy’s made a commitment last year to phase out by the end of 2021. Read more…

Most face masks don’t expose wearers to harmful levels of PFAS, study says

By PFAS in the news

Manufacturers design face masks to not only prevent inhalation of particles and pathogens but also to repel fluids, so some companies could be adding PFAS coatings to their products. During the current pandemic, people have been wearing face masks for long periods, which could expose them to PFAS through inhalation, skin exposure or accidental ingestion. In addition, used masks end up in landfills, where the compounds might leach out into the environment. Ivan Titaley at Oregon State University and colleagues wanted to measure PFAS in different types of face masks and analyze the implications for human exposure and the environment.

The researchers used mass spectrometry to measure nonvolatile and volatile PFAS in nine types of face masks: one surgical, one N95, six reusable cloth and a heat-resistant fabric mask advertised to firefighters. Surgical and N95 masks had the lowest levels, whereas the firefighting mask had the highest amount. Next, the team estimated the dose of PFAS that could cause health problems from chronic exposure, based on prior animal studies. According to the calculations, regular wear of the surgical, N95 and cloth masks would not pose a risk. However, the higher PFAS levels in the firefighter mask exceeded the dose considered safe, but only when worn for a full day (10 hours) at a high activity level, such as exercising or working in ways that boost the wearer’s respiration. Next, the researchers analyzed the environmental impact of PFAS from surgical and N95 masks (which comprise over 99% of masks discarded in landfills). They estimated that even if everyone in the U.S. over age 5 threw away one mask per day (90 billion masks per year), masks would be only a minor source of PFAS in landfill leachates and domestic water. Read more…

EPA data show almost 900 ‘forever chemical’ foam releases, many into local waterways

By PFAS in the news

Data newly released by the Environmental Protection Agency show almost 900 spills or uses of firefighting foam made with the toxic ‘forever chemicals‘ known as PFAS across the U.S. and the amount that entered local waterways.

It is unclear whether surrounding community water supplies were contaminated by PFAS from the spills or use of the aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF, that contained the chemicals.

The data, recorded by the National Response Center and posted to the EPA’s website, show that since 1990, there have been exactly 897 documented spills or usage reports of AFFF containing PFAS. Many of the sites with the largest foam releases were Department of Defense and federal facilities, but some were commercial harbors and civilian firefighting events. Read more…

Higher levels of PFAS exposure may increase chance of Covid, studies say

By PFAS in the news

Higher levels of exposure to toxic PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ may increase the likelihood of Covid-19 infection, more serious symptoms and death, a group of recent studies have found.

Public health advocates and researchers have feared since the coronavirus pandemic’s onset that PFAS, which are known to be immunotoxic, could hinder the body’s ability to fight Covid-19, and the four studies represent the first bit of research supporting the theory. However, the authors caution that more research is needed.

‘There’s clear science and evidence that immunological response and PFAS are connected and associated – that’s why the Covid aspect is so important to pursue,’ said Christel Nielsen, one of the study’s co-authors. Read more…

States will weigh more than 210 bills on toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in 2022

By PFAS in the news

“Protecting people from exposure to toxic ‘forever chemicals’ will be a top priority for new state regulations throughout the U.S. in 2022, according to a new analysis.

The analysis, published by the Safer States network, found that at least 32 states will consider more than 210 bills related to PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances), making regulation of the chemicals one of the most prevalent issues in state policy making this year. Read more…

Taking the ‘forever’ out of toxic ‘forever chemicals’

By PFAS in the news

They’re used in a wide range of consumer and industrial products, and they degrade so slowly that they’ve earned the nickname ‘forever chemicals.’

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have contaminated air, soil and water around the world, and their ubiquity and persistence make them a nightmare to clean up.

But what if we could take the ‘forever’ out of these forever chemicals, and invent new ways to break some of them down?

That’s one goal of a series of studies led by University at Buffalo researcher Diana Aga, PhD, director of the UB RENEW Institute and Henry M. Woodburn Professor of Chemistry in the UB College of Arts and Sciences. UB faculty, students and postdoctoral researchers are engaged in these projects, as well as partners from other institutions. Read more…

States will weigh more than 210 bills on toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in 2022

By PFAS in the news

Protecting people from exposure to toxic ‘forever chemicals’ will be a top priority for new state regulations throughout the U.S. in 2022, according to a new analysis.

The analysis, published by the Safer States network, found that at least 32 states will consider more than 210 bills related to PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances), making regulation of the chemicals one of the most prevalent issues in state policy making this year.

PFAS are a class of more than 9,000 compounds with similar properties. They’re used in everything from clothing and carpeting to nonstick pots and pans, furniture, cosmetics and personal care products, and food packaging containers. PFAS don’t readily break down once they’re in the environment, so they accumulate human bodies over time. Exposure to PFAS is linked to cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, pregnancy-induced hypertension, asthma, and ulcerative colitis. Read more…