When you pick up a large pizza to go, why doesn’t the grease immediately soak through the cardboard box and all over your car? The answer is chemicals, and there’s evidence that some of them are harmful to human health.
Pizza boxes, popcorn bags and many other paper food storage containers are coated with chemicals that repel oil and water. From a not-covering-your-counters-in-grease perspective, this is a good thing. It’s not so good, though, when those chemicals are endocrine disruptors and carcinogens.
The NRDC has been pushing the FDA to ban some of these harmful chemicals, called PFCs, used in paper packaging since the early 2000s. In 2011 several of the companies that produce PFCs agreed to stop selling some types of them. This month’s ban formalizes that voluntary action.
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In October of 2014, NRDC teamed up with other advocacy groups to petition the FDA for an immediate ban. Over a year later isn’t exactly immediate, but the good news is that earlier this month FDA did ban three types of the nastiest PFCs used in paper food packaging. The ban went into effect on January 4th.
Advocacy groups, like the NRDC and EWG, say that this ban is a great first step, but the FDA needs to take further action to keep harmful chemicals out of our food packaging. The coalition is now turning its focus to other dangerous food packaging chemicals.
In a press release, EWG President Ken Cook said, “Industrial chemicals that pollute people’s blood clearly have no place in food packaging, but it’s taken the FDA more than 10 years to figure that out, and it’s banning only three chemicals that aren’t even made any more.” He describes the January ban as “too little too late,” and is calling for further action to protect consumer health.
The same coalition that pushed for this ban is petitioning the FDA to take action on seven other harmful food packaging chemicals:
- Benzophenone (also known as diphenyl ketone)
- Ethyl acrylate
- Eugenyl methyl ether (also known as 4-allylveratrole or
- Myrcene (also known as 7-methyl-3-methylene-1,6-
The new petition is open for comments until March 4, 2016. If you want to let the FDA know that you want these harmful chemicals out of your food packaging, leave a comment here.
Even if you don’t order pizza delivery or use microwave popcorn, this issue impacts you. When we dispose of these products, the chemicals contaminate water, which means you can avoid direct contact with PFCs and other harmful chemicals and still end up being indirectly exposed.