Governor Cuomo Signs Nation’s Strongest PFAS in Food Packaging Ban into Law

(Albany, New York – December 2, 2020) – Today, Governor Cuomo signed S. 8817 (Hoylman) / A. 4739-C (Fahy), a bill prohibiting the use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances in food packaging. The law is set to take effect on December 31, 2022. Its signature comes the week after the Governor signed a bill banning the incineration of PFAS.

PFAS are a group of persistent, man-made chemicals used widely in food containers, garments, furniture, cookware, and carpeting. Because they don’t break down easily and accumulate over time, scientists have dubbed them “forever chemicals.” PFAS exposure can cause thyroid disease, low infant birth weights, decreased sperm quality, immunotoxicity, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and cancer. A report by the Environmental Working Group estimates that nearly two million New Yorkers consume tap water contaminated with PFAS.

PFAS’ prevalence in hot takeout containers means we are often ingesting the harmful chemicals easily and directly from the food we consume. Because it does not biodegrade, compost contaminated with PFAS-laden food packaging is deemed unsafe and unusable. The legislation signed into law today prohibits the distribution or sale of food packaging with intentionally added PFAS, without exception.

“The chemical industry doesn’t get to call the shots in New York,” said Kathleen Curtis, Executive Director of Clean and Healthy New York and Co-Leader of the JustGreen Partnership. “We applaud Governor Cuomo for capping off a legacy-defining session for environmental health by signing this environmental health measure into law.  “We thank Senator Hoylman and Assembly member Fahy for their leadership and commitment to ensuring New Yorkers can trust that their food and water are safe.”

 “Today, New York joins Washington State and Maine in passing strong protections against cancer-causing PFAS chemicals in food packaging,” said Senator Brad Hoylman, Senate bill sponsor. “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 signed into law thanks to the leadership of Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, and the advocates in the JustGreen Partnership whose dedicated organizing made it possible.”

“When we buy food from the grocery store or takeout from a restaurant, we assume that product is safe for our families,” said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, Assembly bill sponsor. “PFAS -- a dangerous and cancer-causing class of chemicals commonly used in everyday food packaging -- however, is anything but safe for New Yorkers. 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 need to be assured of non-toxic food and water, and I am proud to have championed this legislation alongside Senator Brad Hoylman to protect New York families’ health and thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law. I am proud New York leads the way, once again, in the national effort to reduce exposure to these dangerous and toxic chemicals.”

“Studies show that access to fast food is higher in communities with greater concentrations of African American/Black residents, which make them more vulnerable to PFAS exposure from fast food packaging,” said Yuwa Vosper, Environmental Policy & Advocacy Coordinator at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “We thank Governor Cuomo for protecting our communities by signing this bill prohibiting PFAS in food packaging in New York State.”

"Ridding our pantries, cupboards, and fridges of cancer-causing chemicals like PFOA and PFOS will have a lasting impact 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 Governor Cuomo for signing A.4739-C/S.8817 into law. We also applaud Assembly member Fahy and Senator Hoylman for sponsoring this legislation and for their continued leadership in protecting New Yorkers against toxic chemicals like PFAS."

“New York has taken a giant step in protecting its residents from toxic PFAS chemicals,” said Eve Gartner, managing attorney for Toxic Exposure and Health Program at Earthjustice. “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 — so it is just common sense to prohibit the use of PFAS in food packaging since we know that these chemicals end up in our food and our bodies.”

"Our economy depends on a clean environment and healthy citizenry. This fact has been made painfully obvious by the current health and economic crisis," said Bob Rossi, Executive Director of the New York Sustainable Business Council.  "We now know that PFAS can undermine our resistance to infections like COVID and even reduce our antibody response to vaccines.  We thank Governor Cuomo and the NYS legislature for taking this important step in reducing our consumption of PFAS.  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.”

"We congratulate the Governor for signing the PFAS in Food Packaging Ban,” said Elie Ward, Director of Policy for the NYS American Academy of Pediatrics.  "PFAS is a forever chemical that has been proven toxic.  Children need to be protected from ingestion today and protected from ground and water pollution going forward. With the ongoing COVID pandemic, the children and families of New York have been exposed to increased PFAS as families bring more takeout food into their homes during this challenging time. Today the Governor took an important step in protecting New York's children and families from the significant and ongoing health risks of PFAS contamination."

"Drinking water for millions of New Yorkers has been determined to contain levels of PFAS considered unsafe by scientists. This ban in food packaging is a pivotal step toward reducing people’s exposure to these harmful 'forever chemicals’ that don’t break down and can build up in our bodies. We look forward to the Governor leading on this issue as he continues to prioritize the health and safety of New York residents," said Beth Fiteni, Director of Green Inside and Out, a Long Island based environmental health organization.

“Governor Cuomo is standing up for public health and against the insidious chemical industry by signing this bill into law. New Yorkers will no longer have to worry about exposing their families to dangerous chemicals from handling basic items like pizza boxes or milk cartons. Ridding PFAS from our food supply is the right thing to do – and will go a long way help protect New Yorkers from this toxic chemical,” said Rich Schrader, New York Policy Director at Natural Resources Defense Council.

Liz Moran, Environmental Policy Director for NYPIRG, said, "With recent science indicating exposure to PFAS chemicals can reduce the effectiveness of a COVID19 vaccine, it is especially timely and applause worthy that Governor Cuomo has signed this important legislation into law. These chemicals have already polluted the drinking water serving millions of New Yorkers, and there is no evidence that any level of exposure is safe for public health. NYPIRG thanks Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation into law and Senator Hoylman and Assemblymember Fahy for their leadership on this issue. Now, New York must continue its work to eliminate all possible routes of exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals."

Patrick McClellan, Policy Director of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, "Toxic chemicals have no place in our environment.  This legislation will eliminate PFAS in food packaging, which will reduce human exposure to a carcinogenic chemical and protect human health. We thank Governor Cuomo for signing this important bill.”

 

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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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