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.

Ask your MP to take action on PFAS pollution!

As we strive to reduce single-use plastic, are we simply swapping one visible pollutant for a more toxic and persistent chemical alternative?

PFAS are widely used in the manufacture of paper, board and compostable food packaging. They are also polluting our environment, accumulating in our wildlife and contaminating the food that we eat. But this can change! The EU has recently committed to ban all non-essential uses of PFAS, and we want the UK Government to do the same. Today we’re launching our new initiative, asking the UK public to email their MP and take action on PFAS. Will you join us?

MP Project - Option 4

The problem with PFAS

PFAS (per- and poly- fluorinated alkyl substances) are a group of over 4,700 industrial chemicals, widely used in the paper, board and compostable food packaging that is rapidly replacing plastic across the UK. Known as ‘Forever Chemicals’ because they don’t break down in the environment, PFAS are a problem we can no longer afford to ignore.

These chemicals are polluting our rivers, accumulating in wildlife and contaminating the food that we eat. With a growing list of health impacts, including evidence that links exposure to reduced vaccine efficacy, this is a risk too great to accept.

The solution

Denmark has already implemented a ban on the addition of PFAS to food packaging. The EU has already committed to banning PFAS from all non-essenital uses. UK supermarkets are already taking voluntary action, looking at uses within their own supply chains and even committing to phasing PFAS out of their food packaging completely. Suppliers are getting their products tested and developing innovative and genuinely sustainable alternatives.

Plastic-free, PFAS-free food packaging is already on the market, we do not need to accept this growing source of unnecessary pollution.

But, voluntary action is not enough. To genuinely protect our health and the environment, we need the UK Government to act now, follow the Danish example, and ban all PFAS from food packaging. As we move away from single-use plastic, we must ensure we do not simply swap one harmful pollutant for another.

With the UK chemicals strategy currently in development, we also have an important opportunity to secure a longer-term commitment to phase-out all non-essential uses of PFAS, ensuring these chemicals no longer pose a threat to our health and our environment.

Write to your MP

Will you help us? Email your MP today and ask them to urge the government to take tougher action on PFAS!

We’ve already set up draft emails, tailored to your local MP and ready for you to send, so please, click below, and in only a few minutes you can have your say, and help us stop this harmful and unnecessary source of chemical pollution.