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State takes steps toward banning persistent PFAS chemicals in food packaging

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Washington state took an important step toward eliminating the use of persistent chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in common types of food packaging. A new report to the Washington State Legislature from the Department of Ecology identifies additional alternatives to food packaging that contains toxic chemicals, and starts a two-year clock for manufacturers and retailers to remove PFAS from their food packaging.

The report adds flat serviceware, open-top containers, closed containers, bags and sleeves, and bowls to the list of products for which safer alternatives are available. Paper wraps and liners, food boats, pizza boxes, and plates were included in Ecology’s first report, published February 2021, which found that there are replacements for these products that don’t contain PFAS.

“This report starts a two-year countdown to when PFAS will be banned in these five types of products,” said Katrina Lassiter, manager of Ecology’s Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program. “The work that’s been done by Ecology, at the Legislature, and by community organizations will go a long way toward making Washington safer for human health and the environment.”

PFAS are a large group of manufactured chemicals that are extremely difficult to remove from the environment, a trait that has earned them the nickname “forever chemicals.” Studies show that many consumer products and product packaging contain PFAS that can leach into food, ultimately exposing people to these toxic chemicals. Many of them can bioaccumulate, or build up in people and the environment. They can easily contaminate groundwater and can be hard to filter out. Since these substances don’t break down naturally, human and animal exposure to PFAS could continue for hundreds or thousands of years.  



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