January 6, 2020

PFAS in Pizza Boxes and Popcorn Bags: Should You Be Concerned?

Pizzas and popcorn are two of America’s favorite snacks. They have been at the forefront of American food culture for decades – and don’t seem to be leaving anytime soon.

Everybody loves popcorn. Considering its irresistible buttery, cheesy, caramel-y, kettle-y, or buffalo-y goodness, we can understand why. Similarly, pizzas are delicious and come in many different flavors, color schemes and crust styles to match everybody’s unique taste and personality.

Now, we don’t mean to spoil the party but you might be exposed to hazardous levels of a particular group of chemicals used to manufacture your pizza boxes and microwavable popcorn bags. This group of chemicals is called PFAS.

What are PFAS? And should I be concerned about them?

In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about PFAS in pizza bags and popcorn bags and whether or not they pose a threat to your health.

What are PFAS?

The EPA defines per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as “a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals.” These chemicals can be found in drinking water, commercial products like paints, waxes, cosmetics, firefighting foams, food packaging, and others.

PFAS in Pizza Boxes?

Pizza boxes do not contain as many PFAS chemicals as microwavable popcorn bags. A test carried out on 19 pizza boxes from various manufacturers only found one box that was likely treated with PFAS chemicals. Considering that, we can assume that manufacturers have managed to create the pizza boxes in such a way that the pizza grease does not soak through – all without the use of toxic PFAS chemicals. Overall, PFAS do not have to be used in pizza boxes. Since only one out of 15 manufacturers used PFAS chemicals in their pizza boxes, it’s clear that there PFAS are unnecessary and there are alternatives available.

PFAS in Popcorn Bags?

A 2017 experiment done by the Centre of Environmental Health (CEH) shows that every microwavable popcorn bag used in the analysis tested positive for fluorine. The presence of fluorine indicates that the microwavable bags are highly likely to contain PFAS.

Nonstick bags can be manufactured without PFAS. Coop Denmark, a chain of grocery stores, has excluded PFAS from all of its products. Better yet, popcorn manufacturers have devised a brilliant plan to create PFAS-free popcorn bags, making them safer for human use. Popz Popcorn, for instance, sells PFAS-free popcorn bags in Denmark, but not in the U.S. For us to gain access to healthy popcorn bags in America, we must first pass the Healthy Food Packaging Act (HB 2658/SB 6396), which concerns the use of perfluorinated chemicals in food packaging.

This Act was passed to protect our food, health, and the environment by cutting out PFAS. PFAS are highly persistent and are often used in other food packages like fast food and bakery wrappers.

Should I Be Concerned About PFAS in Food Packaging?

Exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health issues in humans. Once you ingest PFAS through food or water containing PFAS, the PFAS are absorbed and accumulated in your body. Again, these chemicals are highly persistent, so they can remain in the human body for long periods. The more people become exposed to PFAS from different sources, over time, the level of PFAS in their body can increase to the point whether they suffer from adverse health effects.

Some studies in humans with exposure to PFAS have shown that certain PFAS may:

  • Increase the risk of cancer
  • Increase cholesterol levels
  • Alter liver functions
  • Increase risk of thyroid disease
  • Interfere with the body’s natural hormones
  • Affect growth, learning and, behavior of infants and older children
  • Increase the risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Lower the chance of pregnancy

So, should you be concerned about PFAS in pizza and popcorn packaging? The short answer is yes.

Verdict

Pizzas and popcorn are popular treats in American food culture. We can’t deny that these foods are highly flavorful and can be made in different ways to excite our taste buds, but the PFAS used in their packaging is a cause for concern.

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