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California State Legislature Considering Ban of PFCs in Food Packaging

Monday, July 24, 2017By Nina Shapirshteyn

It was your family’s once a week treat – dinner out. Each week one of you got to choose the location and, inevitably, the kids took turns picking the drive-through to grab burgers, fries, and milkshakes. You ate healthy all week, with salads and grilled veggies, so this bi-monthly food splurge shouldn’t worry you too much.

As you sit back on Monday morning with a latte in your favorite thermal mug, you browse the local paper. The article catches your attention—you always seem to be drawn to those stories with extra consonants in the title for some reason. This one is about something called PFCs, and it turns out you had more to worry about than saturated fat and excess sugar in those family dining splurges.

PFC’s – short for Perfluorinated chemicals—have long been used in to-go food packaging due to their ability to keep liquids from saturating and dripping from wrappers. PFC’s help paper cups stand up to liquids, paper wrappers stand up to hot grease, and pizza boxes withstand hot dripping cheese. But these chemicals are toxic to human health, so in 2006 the Environmental Protection Agency began requiring chemical companies to begin eliminating the use of long chain PFC’s in their packages.

Chemical companies responded by inventing a new alternative – short chain PFC’s. The new and improved PFC’s were not supposed to have the same toxicity issues as their long chain relatives, but that hope was short lived. In 2015 studies began showing that exposure to the short chain variety caused tumors and kidney disease, among other health problems, in rats.

In response to these studies California originally moved to eliminate the use of all PFC’s in fast food and take out packaging, but has recently changed course to only ban a subset of PFC’s - perfluoroalkyls and perfluoroalkyl substances - that contain eight or more carbon atoms. The bill goes further than originally envisioned, and now would ban the use of these substances in all products, not just food packaging containers. It will also require that PFA’s be evaluated under the state’s Priority Product Work Plan as a priority product in the Green Chemistry program.

The bill as originally envisioned recognized that making healthy food choices can be hard enough, and that being unknowingly exposed to substances with dangers that are hidden to the consumer, but not to the manufacturer, is unacceptable. Often hidden health dangers also disproportionately impact children or lower income individuals whose options are limited. The bill continues to move forward in the legislature.

Manufacturers who promote products that cause great harm to the public must be held accountable, and you can play a part. If you or a family member has been made sick by a dangerous product, call us at 888.777.1776 or use our online contact form. Delays can hurt your case, so please don't wait.

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