The Los Angeles Times ran an important story yesterday on the use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in food packaging. The California legislature is considering a bill that would eliminate the use of PFOA in all food packaging by 2010.
The PFOA is used in food packaging as a coating to prevent food from sticking to the packaging. PFOA-based coatings are used to repel grease on a variety of fast food packages, including pizza boxes, microwave popcorn packages and french fry containers.
The chemical coating is also used a large amount of consumer food packaging including candy and other pre-packaged foods.
According to the LA Times, studies show that PFOA is present in 98% of Americans' blood and 100% of newborns. It doesn't break down and thus accumulates in the system over time.
Federal investigators determined in 2005 that PFOA is a "likely carcinogen" and called for expanded testing to study its potential to cause liver, breast, testicular and pancreatic cancer.
The chemical industry says there's no reason to worry about PFOA, which is used to make Teflon pans and Gore-Tex clothing, and to prevent food from sticking to paper packaging. The industry says that while the EPA's carcinogenic concerns are based on animal tests, there's no evidence that PFOA is harmful to humans.
DuPont Co., the sole U.S. manufacturer of PFOA.
3M used to produce the chemical but stopped production in 2000 after learning that the chemical was accumulating in people's bodies.
California State Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), has drafted legislation -- SB 1313 -- that would ban PFOA and a similar compound in any food packaging sold in California by 2010.
The bill has been approved by the state Senate and passed the Assembly Health Committee last month. It's expected to come before the full Assembly in the next few weeks.
"I was shocked to learn that people are being exposed to toxic chemicals in foods they serve to their family and may ingest every day," Corbett said.
No clear way to determine which packaging uses PFOA
She said she was also troubled that it's virtually impossible to know which manufacturers have PFOA in their packaging. There are no labeling requirements.
In 2006, the EPA invited all companies involved with PFOA to join a voluntary "stewardship program" to reduce use and emissions of the chemical by 2010 and eliminate the substance by 2015.
DuPont said in a letter to the agency that it would eliminate "where possible" use and emissions of PFOA "so that any residuals are reduced to the maximum extent feasible." The company is working on alternative chemicals.
via LA Times: Read full story here