Researchers from the Silent Spring Institute have published a peer-reviewed study investigating consumer exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from foods. Announced in a press release published on October 9, 2019, the study found that food consumption is an important part of consumer exposure to PFAS. Food packaging itself, such as grease-resistant linings placed on boxes and wrappers, is increasingly thought to be responsible for a significant amount of this exposure. “This is the first study to observe a link between different sources of food and PFAS exposures in the U.S. population,” said co-author Laurel Schaider, an environmental chemist at the Silent Spring Institute. “Our results suggest migration of PFAS chemicals from food packaging into food can be an important source of exposure to these chemicals.”
The study focused on data collected between 2003 and 2014 for 10,106 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Analytics from provided blood samples and detailed dietary logs submitted by the participants served as the basis for the study. “We found that every 100 calories of food purchased at a grocery store and prepared at home instead of at a restaurant was associated with 0.3 to 0.5 percent lower levels of PFAS in our bodies,” said Schaider. A limitation of the study, however, is that it focused only on exposure to long-chain PFAS. Many newer, shorter-chain alternatives are already being used on the market.
Policy makers in U.S. are also placing their focus within ongoing PFAS discussions on coatings and linings within food packaging. On October 9, 2019, the Department of Ecology for the state of Washington is reported to have announced a plan to focus on paper wraps and liners during an assessment of PFAS alternatives for food packaging (FPF reported). Packaging bags and sleeves may also be added to the assessment. The state adopted a law banning the use of PFAS in food packaging by 2022 if suitable alternatives can be identified (FPF reported). The assessment aimed to be finished this year, but the process is currently seeing delays. UPDATE Nov 13, 2019: Regulatory news provider Chemical Watch has reported that the state has now planned to expand the scope of the assessment to also include dinnerware and service ware items. This follows comments received by stakeholders, and the final alternatives assessment report is planned for release in Fall 2020.
U.S. presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has also recently announced within her policy plans on October 9, 2019 to set “designating PFAS as a hazardous substance” as an environmental priority. This approach would address the entire class of substances and has been previously promoted by stakeholders (FPF reported). The focus of her campaign regarding PFAS is on preventing drinking water contamination.
Susmann, H.P., L.A. Schaider, K.M. Rodgers, R.A. Rudel. (2019). “Dietary Habits Related to Food Packaging and Population Exposure to PFASs,” Environmental Health Perspectives. DOI: 10.1289/EHP409
Silent Spring Institute (October 9, 2019). “People who eat more meals at home have lower levels of harmful PFAS chemicals in their bodies.”
Kristina Marusic (October 9, 2019). “PFAS with your pizza? People who eat more takeout have higher levels of harmful chemicals in their bodies.” Environmental Health News
Kevin Loria (October 9, 2019). “To Reduce PFAS Levels in Food, Cook at Home.” Consumer Reports
Chemical Watch (October 9, 2019). “Washington state PFAS alternatives assessment to target paper wraps and liners.”
Lisa Martine Jenkins (October 9, 2019). “US presidential candidate Warren promises aggressive regulation of PFASs.” Chemical Watch
Elizabeth Warren (October 9, 2019). “Fighting For Justice As We Combat The Climate Crisis.”
Chemical Watch (November 13, 2019). “Washington expands scope of PFAS food packaging alternatives assessment.”
Nate Seltenrich (May 28, 2019). “PFAS in Food Packaging: A Hot, Greasy Exposure.” Environmental Health Perspectives.