(Olympia, WA) – Last night, the Washington State Senate voted 30-17 to ban the use of paper food packaging products containing the harmful class of nonstick chemicals called “PFASs”. The bill, ESHB 2658, was sponsored by Rep. Joan McBride (D-Redmond). The bill has already passed the House, and now goes to Governor Inslee for signature. If the Governor signs the bill, Washington will be the first state in the nation to ban PFASs in food packaging.

PFAS chemicals are industrial chemicals that have become an emerging public health threat, showing up in drinking water, people, and the environment. Linked to cancer, liver toxicity, and other health effects, PFASs are extremely persistent and can stay in the human body for as long as 8 years.

Food packaging is a source of human exposure to nonstick chemicals when the chemicals move into the food when it comes into contact with the packaging. Studies also show the chemicals in food packaging get into soil, crops, water, and wildlife when the food packages are composted or landfilled.

Specifically, the legislation:

  • Bans the use of PFAS chemicals in paper food packaging, like microwave popcorn bags, sandwich and butter wrappers, and french fry boxes, on January 1, 2022, as long as the Department of Ecology identifies that safer alternatives to PFASs are available by January 1, 2020.
  • If Ecology is not able to identify a safer alternative by January 1, 2020, then the ban does not go into effect and Ecology must review the availability of alternatives every year.
  • Once Ecology does identify a safer alternative, the ban goes into effect 2 years after the alternatives are identified.

A recent study found 100% of microwave popcorn bags likely contained PFASs. In a 2016 study of over 300 food packaging materials, nearly 40% were treated with fluorine and likely contained PFAS. More information on nonstick PFAS chemicals in food packaging can be found at toxicfreefuture.org/key-issues/legislative-priorities-2018.

Passage of the bill comes just one day after the House approved a first-in-the-nation ban on PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam (ESSB 6413).

“Our food should not be packaged in harmful chemicals that leach out and contaminate food, people, and the environment. The Legislature’s action on these chemicals will protect the health of our families and environment, and prevent future harm. We want to thank Representative Joan McBride, Senator Kevin Van De Wege, Representative Joe Fitzgibbons, and Senator Lisa Wellman for their leadership. Washington state is now a model for other states to follow,” said Laurie Valeriano, Executive Director, Toxic-Free Future.

“Getting these harmful chemicals out of our environment is one of the environmental community’s top priorities. We are pleased the Legislature took action to protect the health of communities across the state and look forward to Governor Inslee signing the bill,” said Clifford Traisman, lead lobbyist for Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters.

“The Arc of Washington State is very grateful for this positive action. This bill will reduce the toxins that are dangerous to people with developmental disabilities, especially those who have compromised immune systems,” said Diana Stadden, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, The Arc of Washington State.

“We are very excited for this bill to pass! We want all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to have access to save food that does not have these harmful toxics that can make us sick,” said Ivanova Smith, Self-Advocacy Coordinator, Self-Advocates In Leadership (SAIL).

This is great news and a huge victory for communities of color. These communities are the most disproportionately impacted by contaminants and pollutants in the environment. We certainly do not need additional toxic, cancer-causing chemicals in the food we consume. The passage of this bill is a step in the right direction to protect the health of our children and all families in Washington State. We look forward to the Governor’s signature on this milestone of legislation,” said Óskar Zambrano Méndez, Director of Civic Engagement & Advocacy, Latino Community Fund.

“Tilth Alliance is thrilled that food packaging will now be free from this dangerous and long-lasting chemical. This is a positive step in making our food system safer for everyone,” said Jenny Thacker, Director of Corporate, Foundations and Government Relations, Tilth Alliance.

“Compost is so important for our home gardens and for the agricultural community.  Removing PFAS in food packaging as a source of contamination in our commercial compost stream is critically important,” said Heather Trim, Executive Director, Zero Waste Washington.

“Faith leaders statewide thank legislators for upholding our shared value of protecting the most vulnerable by phasing out toxic PFAS chemicals in food packaging. This meaningful legislation addresses our moral obligation to protect families from toxic contamination in the products we use every day in our homes, houses of worship, and local businesses,” said Jessica Zimmerle, Earth Ministry Program and Outreach Director.

It’s ridiculous that we store any of our food in potentially cancer-causing chemicals. This bill establishes Washington as a leader in protecting our families and communities from PFASs, and is a great first step in eliminating these harmful chemicals from our environment,” said Elise Orlick, Director, WashPIRG.

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Toxic-Free Future is a statewide nonprofit organization using science and advocacy to win strong health protections for people and the environment. Toxicfreefuture.org and @ToxFreeFuture

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