Study in Europe Find "Forever Chemicals" Are Widespread in Disposable Packaging
Wednesday, 19 May 2021
Prague/Brussels/London A recent study by Arnika found PFAS in a huge percentage of food packaging materials and tableware in popular fast-food chains across Europe. In cooperation with six other NGOs including IPEN, the study found that 76% of the samples tested were intentionally treated with PFAS, which is a class of chemicals frequently used for their oil- and grease-repellent properties. Additionally, traces of PFAS were detected in all samples, which should not be surprising given how they do not break down easily and migrate into water and the enviroment, earning them their "forever chemicals" moniker. All of the materials tested were items intended for a single use, including items for which sustainable alternatives exist.
“It is high time for the European Union to act and immediately and permanently ban the entire class of PFAS in food packaging, to protect the consumers in the first place. It is clearly not essential to use highly toxic and persistent chemicals, posing such a serious health and environmental risk, in throw-away food packaging, especially when there are safer alternatives,” says Jitka Strakova, the main author of the study and Arnika/International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) science advisor.
Quezon City, Philippines A non-profit environmental health watchdog group monitoring compliance to the country’s ban on lead paint today revealed its discovery of six more spray paints with excessive levels of lead, bringing the number of violative aerosol paint products it had found to 56.
According to the latest ALERTOXIC issued by the EcoWaste Coalition, lead content analysis performed by a private laboratory detected lead up to a whopping 99,900 parts per million (ppm) on six bright color Tacoma Spray Paints, which the group purchased last April 14 from a hardware store chain.
Gothenburg, Sweden - Increasing levels of chemical and plastic pollution are major contributors to declines in the world’s fish populations and other aquatic organisms, according to a new report released today. The report is the first to bring together in one place the latest scientific research demonstrating how chemical pollution is adversely impacting the aquatic food chain that supports all life on earth.
“Many people think fish declines are just the result of overfishing. In fact, the entire aquatic food web has been seriously compromised, with fewer and fewer fish at the top, losses of invertebrates in the sediments and water column, less healthy marine algae, coral, and other habitats, as well as a proliferation of bacteria and toxic algal blooms. Chemical pollution, along with climate change, itself a pollution consequence, are the chief reasons for these losses,” said Dr. Matt Landos, report author and Director of Future Fisheries Veterinary Services.
For its March 2021 newsletter, the International Environmental Communication Association (IECA) interviewed IPEN Co-Chair Tadesse Amera about his role as an environmental communicator, why he wanted to do this work, and the challenges he has faced. In addition to his role with IPEN, Dr. Amera is a co-founder and current executive director of PAN Ethiopia, which works to advance principles of safety and sustainability in agriculture. The IECA newsletter was edited by Shirley Ho and Hanna Morris and is presented here in its entirety.
IECA: Was there a significant life experience that helped shape your attitude toward the environment? If so, what was it?
Amera: In a small town at the northwestern part of Ethiopia, I followed what my friends used to do routinely. Studying inside a small forest at the periphery of the town together with closest friends, swimming in a small river and drinking water from a natural spring that flows all year round remains at the top of my childhood memory.
Quezon City, Philippines - An online gathering of over 100 people held in observance of the World Health Day today highlighted the dangers posed by a family of highly persistent chemicals dubbed as “forever chemicals” and the urgent need to protect the people and the environment from these synthetic substances.
Organized by the EcoWaste Coalition and the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), the “D-Tox Webinar on Forever Chemicals” turned the spotlight on the hazards of PFAS (the acronym for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), a group of over 5,000 chemicals that has earned the moniker “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down easily and can stay in the environment indefinitely, build up in human bodies over time and bring about adverse health outcomes.
Resource persons Pamela Miller (Co-Chair of IPEN and Executive Director of the Alaska Community Action on Toxics) and Jeff Gearhart (Research Director of Healthy Stuff Lab and Ecology Center) led the discussion on PFAS and recommended actions to control and prevent exposure to these persistent chemicals.
BANGKOK / PRAGUE – Pollution of air, soil, and the food chain has reached extreme levels in Thailand, as shown by the long-term measurements conducted by the environmental organizations Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand (EARTH) and Arnika (1). NGOs and the communities that are affected are now asking the authorities to introduce a mandatory system to monitor emissions of harmful substances from industrial plants and factories. Data should be reported in a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR), an effective mechanism of public control that has proved its worth in reducing pollution in European countries and has contributed to the safety of communities.
According to several expert analyses from the NGOs EARTH (2) and Arnika (3) focusing on different toxic hotspots in Thailand (4), people living near industrial sites do not have any official data on pollutants in emissions, they do not know to what extent the local industry can negatively affect their land, water, air, and the sources of their food, and they cannot defend themselves effectively against the damage to their health and valuable resources. Thai fishermen are noticing an increasing number of dying fish, the main source of food and communities' livelihood. Very dangerous organic pollutants are unfortunately ubiquitous in the Thai environment. Pollution is caused mainly by industrial activity.
“What we in Thailand actually need is an effective Pollutant Release and Transfer Register – to identify specific polluters and chemicals, to establish strict norms, and to collect the data regularly. This needs to be fully accessible for everyone so that we would all have free access to important environmental data affecting our health. It would also help lawsuits to be solved faster, not like the cases of the Wax Garbage Recycling Centre or Win Process Company, which took decades of complaints and petitions from local communities. We are well aware of the importance of capacitating and empowering communities affected by industrial pollution and their role in implementing a PRTR and we definitely want to support that,” explained Penchom Saetang, director of EARTH.
Dhaka, Bangladesh - Hazardous plastic waste is a global threat, but smaller countries face increasing pressure to accept waste from large waste producers, such as the European Union and the United States. In Bangladesh, a recent event brought together journalists and experts seeking to halt illegal trade in waste. Organizations are working to urge the government to ratify the Basel Convention Ban Amendment to protect Bangladesh from hazardous plastic waste.
"Bangladesh is a signatory to Basel Convention but it did not sign the Basel Ban Amendment that deals particularly with wastes and hazardous wastes management and its transboundary movement. It is high time to adopt the ban amendments to tackle this toxic situation," said Dr Shahriar Hossain, secretary general of the Environment and Social Development Organisation (ESDO), which recently released a study "Transboundary Movement of Plastic Waste: Situation of Bangladesh". The event was co-sponsored by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).