PFAS – A DIRTY WORD
What is McDonalds saying? What can we do?
PFAS is a dirty word, as one Texas airport executive recently told me. Perhaps more than a dirty word, since even the FDA has acknowledged that there is scientific evidence that it causes serious health conditions. These so called Forever Chemicals are proven to be linked to cancer, liver damage, thyroid disease and development issues in wildlife and humans.
So a few weeks ago, I asked McDonalds if they’d banned PFAS from their food packaging. Their customer contact center replied that they had eliminated 2 PFAS—out of the nearly 5,000 PFAS out there. Sigh!
To be fair they also mandate, I quote, that their suppliers not use any perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). How do they enforce this? It remains to be seen.
Like many in the industry, McDonalds have eliminated one or two PFAS at a time, while thousands more, just as harmful, remain in use. This type of behavior creates a false sense of security with the customer.
So, what can we do personally to reduce our exposure to PFAS?
First, test our water. Public water supplies often have PFAS due to runoff or leeching.
Second, avoid stain or water resistant textiles — clothes, furniture, tablecloths, etc.
Third, avoid food packaging (including soft multilayer plastic) that is coated to resist grease, stains or heat — microwave popcorn is a classic example.
Through the Wildlife over Waste campaign, Environment Texas has been asking its staff and volunteers to contact customer service at manufacturers and retailers, to check if they are using PFAS or think their products might contain PFAS. From my experience, they may not know, but the very question will raise eyebrows, customer service may then research PFAS, and the ball of awareness will start rolling on a larger scale.
Monique Eckelmann, Conceptual Artist and volunteer at Environment Texas
All of the photos below, taken in the homes of Environment Texas staff members, show items likely to contain PFAS chemicals: