New York Bans ‘Forever Chemical’ From Food Packaging

Both Houses of New York State Legislature Outlaw Use of PFAS

(Albany, New York – July 23, 2020) – Today, the New York legislature passed S. 8817 (Hoylman et al.) / A. 4739-C (Fahy), a bill to prohibit the use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances from food packaging. The bill passed 116-25 in the Assembly and 49-11 in the Senate. The law will take effect on December 31, 2022.

PFAS, which scientists call “forever chemicals”, is neither naturally-occurring nor biodegradable, remaining in the environment – and in living things -- in perpetuity. It can cause the human body harm in a number of ways, including cancer, thyroid disease, birth defects, decreased sperm quality, immunotoxicity, and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

PFAS is widely used in food containers, cookware, garments, furniture, carpeting and more. Because PFAS are frequently used in hot takeout containers, they frequently transfer directly onto the food itself and are ingested. Compost contaminated with packaging with PFAS is unusable. A report by the Environmental Working Group estimates that nearly two million New Yorkers consume tap water contaminated with PFAS daily.

"We are done playing whack-a-mole with the chemical industry," said Kathleen Curtis, Executive Director of Clean and Healthy New York and Co-Leader of the JustGreen Partnership. "Thank you to Senator Hoylman and Assemblywoman Fahy for achieving a stunning victory for everyone in New York State by turning off the tap on an entire class of chemicals that has wantonly contaminated our people, communities, food, water, and soil.”

“Today, New York State legislators demonstrated that they can protect us from PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ in food packaging, and that Black Lives Matter by passing S. 8817 and A. 4739-C, prohibiting PFAS in food packaging in New York,” said Cecil Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice and Co-Leader of the JustGreen Partnership. “WE ACT for Environmental Justice applauds Senator Hoylman and Assembly member Fahy for leading the way. Studies have shown that access to fast food is higher in communities with greater concentrations of African American/Black residents, making them vulnerable to high exposure to PFAS from fast food packaging. We look forward to bills being signed into law.”

“Donald Trump’s FDA has failed to properly regulate the dangerous class of chemicals known as PFAS, putting the health of families across New York at risk. If the federal government won’t lead, New York will,” said Senator Brad Hoylman, Senate bill sponsor. “Today, New York is joining Washington State and Maine in passing strong protections against cancer-causing PFAS chemicals in food packaging. Major brands including Sweetgreen, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods have already taken steps to reduce or eliminate PFAS and it is time to codify this policy statewide. I’m thrilled to see this legislation pass the Senate thanks to the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and grateful to my colleague Assemblymember Patricia Fahy for shepherding this bill through the Assembly, as well as the advocates in the JustGreen Partnership whose dedicated organizing made it possible.”

“When we buy food from the grocery store or our favorite takeout place, we assume that product is safe for our families,” said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, Assembly bill sponsor. “PFAS chemicals, commonly used in food packaging, however, are anything but safe. The short-chain PFAS most commonly used in food packaging has been shown to have similar toxicity to long-banned long-chain PFAS. New Yorkers must have a right to non-toxic food and water. I am proud to champion this legislation to protect New York families and I hope to see New York lead the way, once again, on getting dangerous chemicals out of food systems.”

"New York has taken a giant step in protecting its residents from toxic PFAS chemicals. We will be grappling for decades with how to get PFAS out of our drinking water -- and to pay the costs of that clean-up -- it is just common sense to prohibit use of PFAS in food packaging, since we know that these packaging chemicals end up in our food and our bodies," said Eve Gartner, Toxics Program Managing Attorney at Earthjustice.

“New York State has taken a bold step in curbing our consumption of PFAS—a very persistent and toxic chemical that threatens our businesses and overall economy as well as our people and planet,” said Bob Rossi, Executive Director of the New York Sustainable Business Council. “NYSBC applauds Senator Hoylman and Assemblywoman Fahy for their leadership. Our business community is ready to pivot to safer alternatives, and we already have PFAS-free food packaging produced right here in New York State.”

"Ridding our pantries, cupboards, and fridges of cancer-causing chemicals like PFOA and PFOS will have a lasting effect not only on the health of New Yorkers, but also the health of our air, water, and wild places," said Caitlin Ferrante, Conservation Program Manager, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. "We thank Assemblymember Fahy and Senator Hoylman for their continued leadership on bills like A.4739-C/S.8817!"

"The bill banning PFAS in food packaging is a boost to public health for all New Yorkers. One of the myriad known health risks from PFAS exposure is that it has been linked with early puberty which is a breast cancer risk factor. We shouldn't need to second guess what may be leaching into our food from its packaging,” said Laura Weinberg, President of Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition.

“The science, the facts…millions of dollars have been spent to track the reasons why there is such high incidence of breast cancer,” said Karen Joy Miller, President of the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition. “There is not a family that has not bore witness to the pain and loss of such a diagnosis. We know early puberty is a known risk factor. Even at low doses, exposure to PFAS can change the structure and growth of mammary glands and increase vulnerability during the years of breast development. Banning the use of PFAS chemicals in food packaging will reduce exposure and reduce risk.”

Rich Schrader, New York Policy Director at NRDC, said: “It’s high time the chemical industry stops running roughshod over New York communities – and this legislation helps make sure of it. New Yorkers shouldn’t have to worry about being exposed to harmful chemicals from handling everyday items like pizza boxes or milk cartons. Getting PFAS out of our food supply is a no-brainer that will help keep New Yorkers safe from these toxic, pervasive chemicals.”

Liz Moran, Environmental Policy Director for NYPIRG, said, "NYPIRG applauds Assemblymember Fahy and Senator Hoylman for the passage of this important legislation that protects public health from further exposure to dangerous PFAS chemicals. Too many communities and lives have already suffered from these chemicals - over 1.5 million New Yorkers rely on drinking water with levels of PFOA and PFOS considered by many scientists to be unsafe. Any route of exposure to these chemicals must be eliminated, which is why eliminating their use in food containers is a crucial step. We urge the Governor to sign this legislation into law."

“People should not have to worry about getting cancer from the lining on their microwave popcorn bag,” said Beth Fiteni, Director of Green Inside and Out. "What people don’t know can sometimes hurt them, so banning unnecessary chemicals like PFAS in food packaging is a common sense way to protect public health."

Enactment of this policy was a top JustGreen Partnership priority.

 

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The JustGreen Partnership is a coalition of about 50 groups representing nearly a million New Yorkers, all working together for environmental health and justice for New York’s people and communities. The Partnership focuses on transforming the policies that govern how chemicals are regulated or marketed in the great State of New York. Through our work, we are building a better movement for health and environmental justice in New York State.

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