Consumers can feel better about supporting their favourite companies after restaurants and retailers teamed up to rid their stock of hazardous “forever chemicals”.
Made up of 23 brands totalling almost 84,000 physical stores and $570 billion in annual sales–the new alliance is uniting against a class of chemical contaminants variously called PFAS, PFOA, PFOS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances.
The true nature of the threat is reflected in the diversity of retailers from Chipotle and Home Depot to REI to TJ Maxx. Although PFAS can be found in a variety of products, they have no known natural degradative pathway, which gives them the name “forever chemicals.”
They can be found on the coatings of popcorn bags, waterproof raincoats and linings for nonstick Teflon pans. They can also be injected by spray to create stain protectors and industrial fire-fighting foam for outdoor and indoor equipment.
They are now being detected in the water supply of as many as 16.5 million Americans.
Recent legislative and corporate governance strategies have seen major reductions in the use of PFAS in some places. For example on July 15, Maine became the first U.S. state to ban PFAS outright, except where it is currently unavoidable, like in critical hospitals and medical supplies.
“I am proud to see Maine taking action that will change the conversation on how PFAS are regulated, not only addressing the entire class but creating the requirement to avoid these persistent and toxic chemicals wherever possible,” stated Patrick MacRoy, deputy director of Defend Our Health.
A company like McDonald’s can avoid using PFAS in their packaging and their products will end up all around the country and the globe. This means that they can protect people from their harmful effects and not rely on local government agencies.
This is true for Target, Amazon and 7-Eleven as well as Wendy’s, Wendy’s, Panera Bread and Lowes.
Safer Chemicals Healthier Families is an organization that provides excellent oversight on the state of contaminants and harmful chemicals and the products that usually contain them, the scientific work that identified them, and government ordinances banning them. The organization says that although it is likely that every American has PFAS, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.
Avoid takeout containers, popcorn bags and packaged food. They also provide a list of name-brand packaging that is certified as PFAS-free.
MadeSafe, another resource for identifying common toxic chemicals in everyday household cleaning and hygiene products, will tell you which ones tend to contain PFAS.
Avoid Teflon and other nonstick coatings on pans. Don’t use them if they’ve been left on too much heat. If the nonstick coating becomes less nonstick, throw it out.
A crucial detail emerged in the fight to stop chemicals in packaging products and water on July 21st. The House voted in favour of a PFAS “Action Act.”
H.R. H.R. 2467, if it passes the Senate, would allow the EPA to designate PFOS or PFOA as hazardous chemicals for one year, but give the agency five years to decide whether to designate PFAS a harmful substance or harmful air pollutant.
The same goes for a national drinking-water standard for these chemicals. This will indicate how much contamination is legally allowed. It will be established over a two year period.
Although the bill proposes that products have a “containing PFAS” label, it is suggested that this label should be voluntary.
Although it may take a while for governmental action to move, we can be proud that 23 American brands and states such as Maine are working quickly to eliminate a toxic chemical.