Dr. Patricia Farrell on Medika Life

PFAS Is a Culprit Affecting Health, and It’s in Packaging — But No More in the USA

The FDA has issued new guidelines for removing PFAS from food packaging after it has proven dangerous for our health.

A nondescript food container for your take-out lunch that day sits on your desk. With each bit of food you remove from the container, place into your mouth, chew, and swallow, you are doing yourself a deadly disservice. But who ever thought that? Hasn’t the FDA protected us from dangerous food-related products? No, they hadn’t.

This has gone on for years but isn’t confined to food containers like the one on your desk, but also to the wrapping that may be used where you pick up your sandwiches or the packaging used in the supermarket for all the items you purchased there or even for shipping food products.

Every time you eat one of the products that has been wrapped, shipped, or slipped into a container with a specific chemical in it, you are, in effect, damaging your health, or endangering yourself or your children, if they also use those containers or wrappers.

What do you think should have been done decades ago when it was known that this was not a safe material to have near food? And what’s the stuff that’s so dangerous? It’s PFAS, the forever chemicals, and they are endocrine disrupters.

The information we have shows that people who are most likely to be subjected to endocrine disruptors (EDs) are more likely to have cancer, reproductive problems (like infertility, endometriosis, and miscarriages), metabolic problems (like diabetes), and/or immune system problemsChildren who are exposed to endocrine disruptors also show behavioral and psychological problems. The disturbing results in children, in utero, and after birth, are particularly disturbing.

In the US, The Endocrine Society has indicated that hormonal disrupters put unborn children at the highest risk. Animal studies show that even small amounts during pregnancy can lead to obesity later on. Some disrupters directly affect cells in the pancreas and fat and liver cells. This can all cause insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

The EU has made rules about these chemicals with Regulation 2017/2100 and Regulation 2018/605. But these scientific factors are not a way to find EDs and do not fully protect people’s health.

For food contact purposes, the FDA said that makers can no longer sell grease-proofing substances containing PFAS. When these chemicals are used on food packaging paper and paperboard are taken off the market voluntarily, they will no longer be a major source of dietary exposure to PFAS from approved food contact uses. Where do we find PFAS used?

Paper and paperboard packaging is treated with grease-proofing chemicals to stop grease and oil from leaking and to make the packaging resistant to water. Materials with PFAS were used to make fast food wrappersmicrowave popcorn bagstake-out paperboard cases, pet food bags, and other similar kinds of packaging.

The FDA had given manufacturers three years to exhaust their supply of products containing this material. During the three-year moratorium, however, consumers continued to be exposed to these substances, and we do not know the long-lasting results of such exposure in terms of human health. Some manufacturers have already removed themselves from markets requiring them not to use this material in their products. We do not have information regarding which manufacturers have left the markets where they would have used PFAS. But this is only one small part of the equation; what about shipping food products or ingredients?

The issue now becomes one of finding safe wrapping and packaging materials that are not problematic should they come in contact with food either for us or animals, even in animal feed. How do we know which ones are safe and which ones still contain PFAS? We don’t, which leaves us with a quandary regarding how much exposure we will accept if we do not know where the exposure may be.

A question lingers in my mind regarding PFAS and food. While the FDA has indicated manufacturers can no longer make products containing this material for food packaging, what about all of the facilities that still have these kinds of packaging materials on hand? No one told them they had to discard all of these materials and purchase new ones without the dangerous PFAS in them. Who knows how much stock they had on hand?

Can we believe that all of the packaging materials in all of the shops or all of the food preparation companies are now free of PFAS? I know these are disturbing questions, but we must consider that the food is still unsafe because it may still be placed in packaging or wrappings containing the now-forbidden material. This can happen at the packaging level, whether at the manufacturer or retail level.

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Pat Farrell PhD
Pat Farrell PhDhttps://medium.com/@drpatfarrell
I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.


Medika Editor: Mental Health

I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.

Patricia also acts in an editorial capacity for Medika's mental health articles, providing invaluable input on a wide range of mental health issues.

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