Non-polymer PFAS can build up in blood protein of animals, and is not always removed quickly. This means that predators eating PFAS-contaminated food will have higher levels in their bloodstream, and concentrations can increase up the food chain. Studies suggest that build up of PFAS is similar to those of other Persistent Organic Pollutants such as DDT.PFAS are estimated to be settling in arctic regions at rates of tens to hundreds of kilograms per year (25-850kg per year), depending on the specific PFAS chemical in question. Certain PFAS are released as gases to the environment and are blown a long way by wind and air currents in the atmosphere,. These gas PFAS will over time degrade to more persistent chemicals like PFOS and PFOA. This may be one reason why PFAS of environmental concern have been found in remote regions such as the Arctic as well as near PFAS production sitesPFAS including PFOS and PFOA have been found in air samples around Europe. The chemicals are found in small quantities, but appear in almost all samples tested. PFAS enters the atmosphere both from factories and the air inside our homes. PFAS is found in treated waste water from industrial and domestic sources and has been found in both rivers and groundwater. Conventional drinking water processes will not remove PFAS.PFAS-coated clothes that are thrown away will often end up either incinerated or in landfill. Unless incinerated at very high temperatures (>1000oC), fluorinated polymers could release more harmful PFAS during burning. PFAS of environmental concern have also been found in landfill leachate. Non-polymer PFAS are used in the production of fluorinated polymers. The manufacture of stain-resistant finishes generally releases these PFASs into the environment, both by air and water emissions. They are very hard to remove during water treatment. Workers in textiles factories are some of the population most exposed to these potentially harmful chemicals. Small quantities of PFAS will be removed during wash and wear of products containing PFAS. This includes fluorinated polymers used on stain-resistant coatings, and non-polymers that remain on clothes after production (Lassen et al. 2015).Most UK waste still ends up in landfill, and this includes PFAS-containing products. Studies have shown that the liquid coming from landfills (known as leachate) often contain non-polymer PFAS chemicals. In the USA the total quantities were estimated at 563-638 kg in 2013. To properly break down PFAS chemicals high temperature (1000oC or more) incineration is recommended. Incineration of municipal waste does not necessarily reach these temperatures (min temp. required is 850oC), and the incomplete breakdown could release non-polymer PFAS.Wash and wear of clothing that contains PFAS-based stain-resistant or water repellent finishes release PFAS to the environment. Coatings are thought to lose effectiveness after 20-30 washes. This can include non-polymer PFAS, remnant from production or as a break-down product of side-chain polymers (Lassen et al. 2015). The manufacture of stain-resistant finishes releases PFAS into the environment, both by air and water emissions. PFAS are very hard to remove during water treatment. Industrial emissions are estimated to be the biggest source of these chemicals to the environment.

Help find the PFAS

We know that PFAS are used in UK food packaging. We also know that they spread from food packaging into our environment where they can cause harm. But what we don’t know, is how widespread their use is… that’s where you come in!

You can help ‘Find the PFAS’ using this simple test. Anyone can do it, at home, with nothing more than some food packaging, a pencil and some olive oil. So why not give it a go today!

For more information, you can check out the results* to see where, and in what, other people have found PFAS.

*Please note, we are no longer taking submissions of bead test results but encourage you to contact the retailer or brand in question directly.

Please note, whilst early research indicates the effectiveness of this test to identify ‘likely’ occurrence of PFAS, it is by no means a definitive result and should not be considered as such. Further details on test accuracy are available here.

How to take part

Using paper or cardboard food packaging collected from your weekly shop or set aside from a takeaway or coffee shop treat, you can help us understand the extent of the UK’s PFAS problem.

All you need is your food packaging, some olive oil and a home-made dropper (we used a pencil!). Following the instructions in our handy video, drop a small amount of olive oil onto the packaging and tell us what you see. Does the droplet soak in, spread out, or form a perfect little bead? Top tip: trying testing both sides of the packaging.

If you have your camera or phone to hand, why not take a picture of what you’ve found.

If your result is a “bead”, we encourage you to contact the retailer or brand in question directly to let them know about the possible presence of PFAS in their products. You can use the email template here:

What type of packaging should I test?

PFAS are used to prevent oil and grease soaking into paper and cardboard packaging, so focus on these if you can. Some compostable materials, such as the compostable takeaway boxes shown in the middle photo below, also fall into this category and so are worth giving a go as well.

More examples of where PFAS are likely to be found are shown in the photos below.

Want to know about PFAS-free food packaging? You’re in luck! Visit our PFAS free products page to find out more.


Cardboard pizza box

Compostable takeaway food box


Paper food bags

What we’ve found

Of the items tested,
how many found a bead result?


Where were the beads found?

In supermarket products…


In takeaway products…


Data accurate as of November 2022.

How we have used the results

  • Targeted engagement with industry and policymakers. By showing PFAS use is widespread and identifying key sources in the UK, we used this information to refine our asks of policy makers and industry.
  • Data sharing. We openly shared the data our supporters collect with interested stakeholders, be that monitoring bodies or supermarkets themselves, helping them to trace PFAS use in their own supply chains.
  • Preliminary evidence for further scientific research. Our data was used by the wider research community to identify targeted samples for further, more detailed analysis.