Have you ever wondered how they made milk cartons and pizza boxes resistant to oil and water?
While some natural products may be coated in beeswax or soy wax, most commercial food packaging is coated in aspoly- and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs.
These are favored because they’re much more cost-effective to use than their natural counterparts.
The FDA has recently announced that “there is no longer a reasonable certainty” that these chemicals are safe for human consumption (1).
What Are PFASs?
PFas are moisture and grease-repellent chemicals that are used in anything from microwave popcorn bags and wax pastry bags to carpet cleaners and camping tents (2).
The FDA is currently proposing a motion to ban the use of these products in food packaging because they have demonstrated reproductive and developmental toxicity in animal models (3).
In humans, they are believed to be endocrine disruptions that may affect fetal brain development and may even be responsible for congenital cerebral palsy and behavioral changes such as hyperactivity (4, 5).
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Additionally, these chemicals are thought to affect the thyroid and immune system, leading to hormonal imbalances and even cancer. They may also cause high cholesterol (6).
Too Little Too Late
Unfortunately, these chemicals already made their way into the water, earth and air around us.
Two PFASs—perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanoic sulfonate (PFOS) are so common in that environment that they are believed to be present in the blood, breast milk, kidneys, and liver of every person on earth (6).
Production companies are hoping to replace theses chemicals with equally toxic compounds that simply haven’t been studied yet.
“When you have something that is a first cousin or brother-in-law to a chemical that we are certain is carcinogenic, you have to somehow prove that it is safe before you use it — that it is not injurious,” warns Dr. Paul Brooks, who lead a groundbreaking lawsuit on the dangers of PFASs ten years ago. “You just have to be cautious.” (5)
How To Avoid PFASs
Most PFOA and PFOS exposure occurs through food and water.
Crops like potatoes, corn and wheat contain alarming high levels of the chemicals.
Other dangerous sources include fish, meat, milk and contaminated food packaging and cookware (6).
Unfortunately, it’s incredibly difficult to avoid PFASs as they’ve seeped into water supply as well as the plants and animals we consume.
If you somehow manage to avoid exposure, it takes an additional 3 years of avoidance to clear your body of only half of the PFASs it had accumulated (6).
However, you can minimize exposure by avoiding processed foods, cutting out or at least reducing dairy products and meat from your everyday diet, purchasing foods with minimal packaging, purchasing a PFAS-free water filtration system and using PFAS-free cookware.