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These Toxic Chemicals in Food Packaging Are Getting Into Your Meals
By Rachel Smilan-Goldstein
On a busy weeknight, takeout and fast food are easy dinner time solutions. But your family's favorite on-the-go meal may come with a side of toxic fluorinated chemicals.
Per- and polyfluoralkyl substances, or PFAS, are a family of greaseproof, waterproof and nonstick industrial compounds. They're used in hundreds of consumer products, including ones that touch your food. These chemicals pollute the bodies of almost everyone worldwide, and have been linked to a slew of serious health problems.
Some of the most worrisome places these chemicals lurk are in fast food wrappers and takeout containers. Food and Drug Administration tests found that PFAS chemicals can migrate out of food wrappers to contaminate food, especially when the food is greasy. And when the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and colleagues tested fast food wrappers, we found fluorinated chemicals in 40 percent of the wrappers tested. This included packaging for sandwiches, pizza, fried chicken and pastries.
Until companies change their packaging, or laws are put in place to keep our food safe from this nasty class of chemicals, PFAS in fast food packages is one more reason to cut back on fast food and greasy carryout whenever possible. Avoiding these substances may be even more important if you are pregnant or have kids, as PFAS chemicals can be particularly harmful to a developing fetus or young child.
Babies and young children are exposed to these chemicals in more ways than adults. They can ingest PFAS chemicals by drinking breast milk, crawling on dusty floors and putting their hands in their mouths after touching contaminated materials. Because of their small size, children may have higher exposures by body weight than adults.
Toxic fluorinated chemicals can lower a baby's birth weight when the mother is exposed. Women drinking water contaminated with the PFAS chemical PFOA in West Virginia and Ohio had increased risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension and pre-eclampsia. PFAS chemicals at concentrations common in Americans may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines in children.
Adding to the long list of concerns, exposure to PFAS chemicals may increase the risk of liver damage, cancer and thyroid disease, and cause endocrine disruption.
Stricter regulations would effectively reduce Americans' exposures to these harmful chemicals, but there is no federal law to restrict their use in consumer goods. In the absence of federal action, state and local legislators are beginning to ban PFAS chemicals from food packaging.
- In March, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed the first state law to ban toxic fluorinated chemicals from food packaging.
- An ordinance proposed in San Francisco would ban PFAS chemicals from single-use foodware like containers, cups and utensils. It would also require foodware designated compostable to be certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute.
- The California legislature is considering legislation that requires manufacturers of food packaging and cookware to label their products with a warning if the products contain PFAS.
Over the past decade, studies have brought to light just how widespread these chemicals are. Besides takeout containers and fast food wrappers, PFAS chemicals are also in microwave popcorn bags, drinking water, cosmetics and clothing.
Read EWG's tips on how to reduce exposure to these chemicals.
It's time for Americans to demand that their elected officials and regulators across the U.S. stand up to the chemical and packaging industries, and get PFAS chemicals out of food packaging.
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‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.
"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."