A bill to ban the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFAS, that are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals in food packaging after Dec.31, 2022, is now on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk.

The bill amending New York’s environmental conservation law cleared the New York General Assembly on July 23.  If signed into law by Gov. Cuomo, the new law will prohibit anyone from distributing, selling, or offering for sale any food in any packaging containing PFAS chemicals.

PFAS, as an intentionally added chemical, will be illegal after Dec. 21, 2022, which is the effective date of the new law. It passed the General Assembly by a 118-to-23 vote.

Legislative sponsors say the new law will protect consumers from the harmful effects of a dangerous class of chemicals linked to serious health problems.

The bill, sponsored by Assemblymember Patricia Fahy (A. 4739) and Senator Brad Hoylman (S. 8817), bans the sale or distribution of food packaging that contains PFAS.

“Consumers should avoid exposure to PFAS chemicals as much as possible because of the growing body of evidence that exposure can be hazardous to their health,” said Dr. Michael Hansen, Ph.D., senior scientist for Consumer Reports.
“This legislation will help protect New Yorkers by decreasing PFAS contamination of food and reducing the amount that winds up in our air and drinking water.  We urge Governor Cuomo to make New York a leader in the effort to reduce public exposure to these hazardous chemicals by signing this bill into law.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),  people can be exposed to low levels of PFAS through food, which can become contaminated through:

  • Contaminated soil and water used to grow the food,
  • Food packaging containing PFAS, and
  • Equipment that used PFAS during food processing.

EPA says people can also be exposed to PFAS chemicals if they are released during normal use, biodegradation, or disposal of consumer products that contain PFAS.  People may be exposed to PFAS used in commercially-treated products to make them stain- and water-repellent or nonstick. These goods include carpets, leather and apparel, textiles, paper and packaging materials, and non-stick cookware.

People who work at PFAS production facilities, or facilities that manufacture goods made with PFAS, may be exposed in certain occupational settings or through contaminated air.

PFAS chemicals have been in wide use since at least the 1950s and studies of the U.S. population have found them in 95 percent of all people tested. Some manufacturers add PFAS to food packaging to make it water and grease-resistant.  It also contaminates the food it comes into contact with and can be released into the environment when manufacturers dispose of materials containing the chemicals.

The Food and Drug Administration(FDA) recently reported that it had detected PFAS in a variety of foods purchased around the country, including produce, meats and seafood, and chocolate cake.  People are exposed to PFAS when they consume food or drinking water contaminated with the chemicals.

Studies have shown that exposure to PFAS chemicals is associated with immunotoxicity, cancer, thyroid disease, birth defects, and decreased sperm quality.  PFAS exposure reduces the immune response to childhood vaccines and may increase the risk of infectious disease. In addition, PFAS exposure has been directly linked to several underlying conditions that make people more vulnerable to severe symptoms of COVID-19, including obesity, asthma, kidney disease, and high cholesterol.

If Governor Cuomo signs the PFAS ban into law, New York will join Washington state and Maine, which have already prohibited PFAS in food packaging.  Safer alternatives to PFAS have proven to be as effective at repelling water and grease.

Cuomo has not yet commented on the bill.

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