Throwaway Packaging, Forever Chemicals: European wide survey of PFAS in disposable food packaging and tableware and efforts to phase it out at top US Grocery and Fast-food Chains
1:00 pm US Eastern Time
Julie Schneider and Jitka Straková - Throwaway Packaging, Forever Chemicals: European wide survey of PFAS in disposable food packaging and tableware
Jitka Straková, Julie Schneider, Natacha Cingotti. (2021). Throwaway Packaging, Forever Chemicals: European wide survey of PFAS in disposable food packaging and tableware.
CHEM Trust. (2019). PFAS – the ‘Forever Chemicals’, invisible threats from persistent chemicals.
FIGO, HEAL and UCSF have developed joint materials to help health professionals take action and contribute to advocacy and awareness-raising on PFAS. This includes:
- An infographic on the problems with PFAS, including health impacts, that is available in English, Dutch, French, Spanish and German.
- A fact sheet, outlining exactly how PFAS chemicals affect women, pregnancy and human development, also in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC).
- FIGO new position statement statement from the FIGO Committee on Reproductive and Development Environmental Health setting out the health concerns associated with PFAS exposure and calling for its removal.
HEAL report ‘Turning the Plastic Tide‘ puts a spotlight on polyfluorinated and perfluorinated compounds (PFAS)
PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), also known as “forever chemicals” are extremely persistent in nature and contaminate drinking water, soil and air. By definition and design, single-use packaging is thrown away immediately after being used in very high volumes, creating another large source of waste containing toxic PFAS chemicals. These forever chemicals pollute drinking water, where they remain and accumulate in the environment and the food chain.
Scientific studies have linked exposure to a number of PFAS to many severe adverse health effects including cancer, and impacts on the immune, reproductive and hormone systems, as well as with a reduced response to vaccinations. In the context of food packaging, studies have shown that PFAS can migrate from the packaging into the food, adding to the overall PFAS exposure of the general population
This webinar explored PFAS in food packaging and alternatives for phasing it out. Jitka Strakova and Dr. Julie Schneider presented a recent study, Throwaway Packaging, Forever Chemicals: European wide survey of PFAS in disposable food packaging and tableware, which exposes the problem of PFAS contamination and sets out EU and global policy responses to address it. Main findings of the report include the following:
- PFAS are widely used in disposable food packaging and tableware in Europe. 38 out of the 99 samples (38%) collected from takeaways, supermarkets and e-shops in 6 European countries (Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom) are suspected to have been treated with PFAS chemicals to repel oil.
- 32 out of 42 samples selected for chemical analysis (76%) show intentional treatment with PFAS.
- Traces of PFAS were detected in all samples selected for lab analysis, even samples not intentionally treated with PFAS.
- 99% of the organic fluorine present in selected samples is not captured by the laboratory’s compound-specific analysis of 55 PFAS, meaning it is impossible to identify the present PFAS compounds with certainty.
Liz Hitchcock, from Mind the Store Campaign, showcased initiatives at top US grocery and fast-food chains to phase out PFAS, resources on PFAS-free paper food packaging alternatives, and a detailed step-by-step guidance for retailers to support this transition. She also shared some recent successes and commitments from US retailers in phasing out PFAS in 2021.
The webinar builds on the CHE EDC Strategies Partnership’s PFAS, Science and Policy webinar series, which includes webinars featuring leading scientists presentations on topics such as the safety of fluoropolymers and connection to PFAS, the concept of essentiality as a means to phase out all but the most needed uses of PFAS and proposed actions on PFAS within the regulatory bodies of the EU as set out in EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability.
This webinar series is sponsored by the EDC Strategies Partnership. The EDC Strategies Partnership is co-chaired by Sharyle Patton (Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center), Jerry Heindel (Commonweal HEEDS, Healthy Environment and Endocrine Disruptor Strategies), Genon Jensen (HEAL, Health and Environment Alliance), Sarah Howard (HEEDS and the Commonweal Diabetes and Environment Program), and Hannah Donart (Commonweal CHE, Collaborative on Health and the Environment). To see a full list of past calls and webinars related to EDCs and listen to or view recordings, please visit our partnership page. For updates and more information on upcoming webinars, sign up for our HEEDS, HEAL, and CHE newsletters!
Jitka Straková, is a global researcher at International Pollutants Elimination Netwok (IPEN), a global network forging a healthier world where people and the environment are no longer harmed by the production, use, and disposal of toxic chemicals. For the past 15 years, Jitka worked as a volunteer, a local campaigner and later as a coordinator of international projects and as a research advisor in Arnika, Czech-based NGO. Jitka’s work has been closely interlinked with IPEN’s Dioxins, PCB and Waste Working Group and has involved conducting several studies on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in products, waste and the environment. Jitka authored the 2021 joint NGO report Throwaway Packaging, Forever Chemicals: European wide survey of PFAS in disposable food packaging and tableware or earlier studies on recycling brominated flame retardants into new products.
Julie Schneider, PhD, is a campaigner at CHEMTrust, a charity working to prevent human-made chemicals from causing long-term damage to humans and wildlife. Her work focuses on persistent synthetic chemicals, in particular PFAS. She is the author of the 2019 CHEM Trust report PFAS – the ‘Forever Chemicals’, invisible threats from persistent chemicals and is co-author of the 2021 joint NGO report Throwaway Packaging, Forever Chemicals: European wide survey of PFAS in disposable food packaging and tableware.
Liz Hitchcock is director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, coordinates work with partner organizations and leads advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill and at EPA and other federal agencies. She joined the team in 2011 after four years as the public health advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. In that capacity, she led U.S. PIRG’s campaigns on environmental health issues including product safety, chemical policy reform, chemical facility security, and food safety. She coordinated PIRG’s successful campaign to win landmark federal standards for toxic lead and phthalates in children’s products in the 2008 reform of Consumer Product Safety Commission and was PIRG's lead lobbyist on the food safety campaign that resulted in the 2010 passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act. She has a B.A. in Politics from Mount Holyoke College and is a native of Schenectady, NY.
This webinar was moderated by Génon Jensen, Executive Director of Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL). It lasted for 60 minutes and was recorded for our call and webinar archive.