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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17554424 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 PFASs 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.

Resources for Retailers

PFAS-free Food Packaging Suppliers

Below are a number of food packaging suppliers who offer a wide variety PFAS-free products. Please note that products are not verified by Fidra and verification should be requested from suppliers directly.

If you know of or are a supplier offering PFAS-free products and would like to be added to the list, please get in touch: info@fidra.org.uk

PFAS-free Supplier
$20 / month
  • Bambu®
  • Delipac
  • Green Safe Products
  • Karat
  • Kotkamills
  • Nordic Paper
  • Notpla
  • World Centric®
Packaging Products
$20 / month
  • Table & kitchenware, including drinks cups, plates, bowls, napkins, utensils & takeaway food containers.
  • Food packaging for fresh produce, confectionary, bakery, food-to-go & convenience foods, packaging suitable for oven, fridge & freezer use, as well as drink ware.
  • Hot & cold drinks cups & takeaway food containers.
  • Food & drinks packaging, including hot & cold drinks cups, food containers, plates, bowls & utensils.
  • Greaseproof paper for food preparation & packaging, including baking paper, baking cups, food packaging, storage & transport paper & catering paper.
  • Food service board, foldable boxes & customisable kraft paper.
  • Compostable takeaway boxes & biodegradable sauce sachets.
  • Takeaway containers, drinks cups, cutlery, bowls, plates, napkins & straws.
Plastic-free Products Available
$20 / month
  • Polylactide (PLA) derived products available
  • Polylactide (PLA) derived products available
Website
$20 / month

Information sourced either directly from the suppliers or from Clean Production Action.

Resource Library

Below are a number of useful documents for retailers wanting to know more about PFAS in Food Contact Materials (FCMs) and the alternatives currently available.

Forever Chemicals in the Food Aisle

Fidra, 2020

Fidra’s ‘Forever Chemicals in the Food Aisle’ report provides information on the presence of PFAS in disposable paper, board and moulded fibre food packaging across a number of major UK supermarkets and food-to-go outlets. The report also describes the ‘bead test’, now widely used as a preliminary indication of intentionally added PFAS prior to further testing.

Download a copy of the report below, or get in touch at info@fidra.org.uk to find out more or discuss the results further.

Forever Chemicals in the Food Aisle

Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS): sources, pathways and environmental data

Environment Agency, 2021

This report provides an up to date review of our knowledge of PFAS in the UK environment, detailing information and knowledge gaps linked to PFAS production and use in the UK market. It also provides a summary of monitoring programmes and research describing presence of PFAS in the UK environment.

Throwaway Packaging, Forever Chemicals – European-wide survey of PFAS in disposable food packaging and tableware

Collaborative works of Arnika Association (Czech Republic), CHEM Trust, BUND/Friend of the Earth (Germany), Danish Consumer Council (Denmark), The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) (Belgium), Tegengif – Erase all Toxins (The Netherlands), Générations Futures (France) and IPEN, 2021

This report is based on a European study looking at the presence of PFAS in disposable paper, board and moulded fibre food packaging items. It aims to understand the widespread use of intentionally added PFAS in food packaging, as well as looking at background contamination levels.

PFASs and alternatives in food packaging (paper and paperboard): Report on the commercial availability and current uses

OECD, 2020

This report outlines availability of current alternatives, both chemical and non-chemical, to PFAS in paper and paperboard food packaging. The work was completed within the framework of the OECD/UNEP Global Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFC) Group.

Risk to human health related to the presence of perfluoroalkyl substances in food

EFSA, 2020

This research article was commissioned by the European Commission and provides the latest scientific opinion of the European Food Safety Authority on the risks PFAS in food pose to human health.

EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability

European Commission,  2020

The EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability outlines the EU’s latest commitments towards achieving a toxic-free environment. This includes targets towards a clean circular economy,  improved transparency of product chemical contents,  and swifter action to ban many of the most harmful chemicals in consumer products. The strategy highlights PFAS specifically and commits to future ban on all non-essential uses.

Overview of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the UK

Environment Agency,  2019

This report, obtained via a freedom of information request by Fidra, provides a broad overview of the use and presence of PFAS in the UK, and was developed as a first step to understanding the exposure and effects of PFAS for future risk management. The report includes monitoring data for waste water, surface and ground water, soil, biota and people.

PFAS in paper and board for food contact
Options for risk management of poly- and perfluorinated substances

Nordic Council of Ministers,  2017

This report provides an overview of the use of PFAS in paper and board food contact materials (FCMs), varying toxicities, and migration from FCMs to food. It also assesses whether appropriate risk assessments of fluorinated substances are available, the suitability of current analytical methods, and provides recommendations for the future.