Culture

Banning the use of Forever Chemicals

Environmental charity Fidra has joined the campaign to get the UK Government to ban the use of Forever Chemicals in food packaging.

Forever Chemicals, or PFAS are a group of over 4,700 industrial chemicals, widely, and often unnecessarily, used in a variety of everyday products.

These chemicals are extremely long-lasting and have been linked to many damaging impacts on the health of people and wildlife. 

Particularly worrying is their use in the paper, board and compostable food packaging that is rapidly replacing plastic across the UK.

The EU have just committed to banning the use of PFAS from all non-essential uses, including food packaging. Click on this link: Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

A large number of PFAS contamination cases of water (including drinking water) and soil have been detected in the EU and globally.

Some PFAS can be highly mobile in air, leading to their accumulation and transport over long distances.

Some of the chemicals from PFAS can also accumulate in humans, animals and plants. You can see from this diagram the spread of their use.

Emission of and exposure to PFAS during their lifecycle (source: EEA-ETC report, Systemic view on fluorinated polymers, forthcoming 2020)

The UK Government is developing a Chemicals Strategy (paused due to Covid) and Fidra are asking the public to get involved “to make sure the government protect our health and the environment from these toxic chemicals.”

Fidra wish to see the UK Government:

  • Take immediate action to ban all PFAS from use in food packaging.   
     
  • Confirm that the upcoming UK chemical strategy will include a longer-term commitment to ban all PFAS from non-essential uses.

To do this they are encouraging people to ”  Email your MP  and ask them to urge the government to take tougher action on PFAS!”
 
They have a ready written template email for you to send.

There are a number of uses of PFAS which are considered essential: in medical devices for instance. They are also used in fire fighting foams and those are responsible for a high number of the instances of wider contamination. Work is underway to have these replaced in places such as airports and industrial complexes.

PFAS are widely used in food containers and it is worth reminding readers of research ongoing into other materials which can be used for this purpose.

Developing Alternatives: ‘Green’ Food Containers

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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