The National Institute of Health issued a report on PFAS, and it is damning.
First, there was DDT. Then came BPA. The latest chemical acronym to become a household name is PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The chemicals in this class are valued as strong surfactants and for their ability to repel water, grease, and stains.1 Among other uses, PFAS are added to paper products designed to hold hot, greasy foods. A recent study in Environmental Health Perspectives delves into how such foods might contribute to people’s exposures to PFAS.2
All PFAS persist in the environment, and some of those found in food packaging are also bioaccumulative and harmful to humans.1 The class’s best-known chemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), were phased out gradually in the United States between 2000 and 2015.3 Many new PFAS with shorter fluorinated carbon chains have taken their place.4 There is evidence that these short-chain PFAS are more rapidly eliminated from the human body,5,6 yet they still present a concern for human health.4
The Intercept discusses how new PFAS contamination has been found in New Jersey. GOVERNMENT SCIENTISTS SUSPECTED that the factory was releasing a dangerous PFAS chemical, and they had good reason to think so. The company operating it had knowingly released another PFAS chemical from this site before — and the first toxic industrial compound, which persists indefinitely in nature, had contaminated local drinking water and accumulated in the bodies of the people who drank it. The company phased out that first problem chemical as part of an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency and began using another in its place.