House passes bill to ban toxic chemicals in food packaging

The House approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Terri Cortvriend, D-Portsmouth, banning per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from food packaging manufactured or sold in Rhode Island. The bill now goes to the Senate.

H7438A prohibits food packaging to which SPFA were intentionally added in any quantity after being manufactured, knowingly sold or distributed in Rhode Island, on or after January 1, 2024.

“As an organizer and as a mom, I am thrilled to see H7438 pass the House today. Families in Rhode Island are about to know that their food packaging is free of toxic PFAS “Said Michelle Beaudin, Acting State Director of Clean Water Action. “Now we need the Rhode Island Senate to pass this bill as well.”

PFAS chemicals are used as anti-grease agents in fast food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, cardboard take-out containers and pet food bags to prevent oil and food grease from leaking through the packaging.

Local efforts have been underway for a few years to regulate this class of harmful chemicals.

Although they have been around since the 1930s, research on the effects of PFAS as a contaminant in the environment is still emerging. They are known to be water soluble, durable in the environment and accumulate in the human body, and in higher concentrations they are toxic. PFAS are commonly used in non-stick and stain-resistant coatings, as well as fire-fighting foams and thousands of other applications. People are exposed to chemicals in many ways, but the most powerful risk comes from consuming contaminated water or food.

The Environmental Protection Agency has resisted calls from public health groups and environmentalists to regulate these substances, commonly referred to as “eternal chemicals”. The Food and Drug Administration permits their use in food packaging, but US manufacturers have voluntarily worked to reduce releases of some PFASs due to their toxic effects on human health.

“While we don’t know everything we need to know about the full effects of PFAS on the environment or humans, there is evidence linking them to cancer, hormone suppression, liver and thyroid problems,” Cortvriend said ahead of the April 28 vote. “Scientists are increasingly concerned about the effects of PFAS, enough that the risks outweigh the benefits of having grease-free paper wrapper on a cheeseburger. There are other food packaging options, and we should use them instead.

The legislation now goes to the Senate, where Sen. James Seney, D-Portsmouth, is sponsoring complementary legislation (S2044).



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