What are PFAS, the forever chemicals?
PFAS - per or poly-fluorinated alkyl substances - are a group of industrial chemicals widely used in everyday products. Found in everything from food packaging to clothing, cookware, cleaning products and makeup, they are almost impossible to escape.
Paper and cardboard food packaging are often treated with PFAS to give oil and water repellency. We tested food packaging from 9 of the UK’s major supermarkets; 90% of samples contained PFAS*.
What’s the problem with these chemicals?
PFAS are known as forever chemicals because they don’t easily break down, in fact they build up. Most of the PFAS ever produced are still in our environment, and more are being made and released every day. If you've seen Mark Ruffalo's new film, DARK WATERS, you'll already be aware of the damaging health impacts of one particular PFAS, PFOA or C8. The film also shockingly highlights how a seemingly localised problem has become a global issue.
PFAS are now everywhere: these forever chemicals are found in our air, oceans, soils and wildlife. They are in our food and they are in our homes. PFAS have been found in the blood of 99% of people tested.
There are over 4500 PFAS, but only two have been studied in depth, both of which are now banned because they were found to be toxic, persistent and bioaccumulative. Links have been made to a wide range of human health concerns, from growth and behavioural problems to cancers, fertility issues and even obesity. We know these forever chemicals are in our wildlife, we know they can impact the brain function of polar bears and the immune systems of otters. And we know that to solve this problem, we have to take action!
How can we stop PFAS pollution?
We can’t clean up widespread PFAS pollution, but we can stop it at source.
We know that supermarkets in other countries have already removed PFAS from their food packaging and we're asking the UK to do to the same.
Join us in asking UK supermarkets to remove forever chemicals from their food packaging. Sign and share our petition and help us make changes that will have a lasting impact for generations to come.
*Items of food packaging from Aldi, ASDA, Co-op, Lidl, Morrisons, Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose were tested by Fidra in December 2019. Items from Waitrose came back without evidence of PFAS use, however only one product line was tested.
Fidra is an environmental charity working to reduce plastic and chemical pollution in the UK. You can find out more about forever chemicals at pfasfree.org.uk
Fidra is a Scottish registered charity and SCIO no. SC043895.