UPDATE: On December 2, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed the nation's strongest PFAS in food packaging ban into law! (The New York Senate passed the bill on July 23, 2020.)
New York legislators introduced a state bill this week that would ban the use of toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in certain kinds of food packaging, which not only exposes consumers directly but also leaches into the drinking water supply. The bill has been passed by the state assembly and is now awaiting passage in the senate.
“Preventing PFAS contamination in the first place is far easier and far cheaper than remediation and cleanup,” says Richard Schrader, New York policy director at NRDC, which submitted a memorandum of support for State Senate Bill S8817 and State Assembly Bill A4739. “This bill is a necessary first step in making sure New Yorkers stay safe from this class of harmful ‘forever chemicals.’”
Proposed by Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, the bill would no longer allow PFAS chemicals to be used as a coating on paper, cardboard, and other plant-derived materials. “New Yorkers shouldn’t have to worry that everyday items like pizza boxes or milk cartons are harming their health,” Schrader says. “Getting PFAS out of our food supply is a no-brainer.”
PFAS remain widely used in other products like nonstick cookware, water-repellent clothing, and stain-resistant fabrics. Dubbed “forever chemicals” because of how long they take to break down and how easily they accumulate in our bodies, the food we eat, and the environment, PFAS has already contaminated the drinking water of millions of Americans across the country, including in New York. Federal monitoring data shows that contamination of the state’s public water systems impacts more than 1.8 million people.
The chemicals have been linked to serious health effects including cancer, hormone disruption, liver and kidney damage, and developmental and reproductive harm. Even low levels in drinking water systems have been associated with substantial increases in blood levels. “Nearly all of us are walking around with detectable levels of PFAS in our bloodstreams,” Schrader says. “This is a public health crisis—and it’s preventable.”
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