Read the full article by Isabella Grullon Paz (The New York Times)
“Based on nothing more than their name, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances certainly don’t sound like something you’d want to find in your burger wrapper. But according to a recent investigation by Consumer Reports, they’re very much there — as well as in your salad bowl, fry bag and sandwich wrap.
So what are these virtually indestructible compounds, created in a lab in 1938 by a 27-year-old chemist? And how worried do you need to be about them?
This is what you should know about PFAS.
Where am I most likely to run into this stuff?
As one researcher put it: ‘everywhere.’
PFAS are in your shampoo bottle, your stain-resistant couch, your dental floss, your bicycle lubricant. And when these multipurpose compounds are used in food packaging, they have a way of transferring to the food itself. To say that PFAS are difficult to avoid is an understatement.
Although these substances have been in use for eight decades, regulators have only recently acquired the scientific understanding and technical capacity needed to test for them at the very low concentrations — measured in parts per trillion — at which they’re present in food, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
In light of those advances, the F.D.A. recommends not reading too much into the fact that a given product might have ‘detectable’ levels of the chemicals. ‘Even when there have been detectable levels of PFAS,’ the agency said, ‘our safety assessments have shown no cause for avoiding these foods.’
OK, but why are they everywhere?
…Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a group of over a thousand chemical compounds that were discovered in 1938 by a young chemist named Roy Plunkett who was working at DuPont at the time. Their first use was as the nonstick agent in Teflon.
They have since been added to an array of products to make them resistant to heat, water, oil and corrosion. The chemical composition of PFAS — they are created by fusing carbon and fluorine atoms — makes the compounds practically unbreakable.
‘They’re called forever chemicals because they’re incredibly persistent,’ said David Andrews, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization. ‘The carbon-fluorine bond itself doesn’t break apart in the environment, and so once the chemicals are released, they typically spread out.'”…