Toxic “forever” chemicals likely to be present in Ireland

Source: Greennews.ie

15 September 2021

Toxic “forever
chemicals” are now likely to be commonly present in Ireland, according to new
analysis.

Polyflourinated
alkyl substances, otherwise known as PFAS, are now being used to treat many
types of packaging in the Irish market and will have major consequences for waste
streams and the circular economy, according to preliminary analysis by VOICE.

Their
presence in food packaging carries significant risk to human health, as it has
been linked
to fertility problems, fluctuations in metabolism, a weakened immune system and
a higher chance of being obese or contracting cancer.

These informally
known “forever chemicals” have been used in industrial and consumer products
since 1950s due to their water and oil resistance, chemical and heat stability,
and friction reduction.

According
to the European Chemicals Agency, even if the release of PFAS were to cease
immediately, “they would continue to be present in the environment, and humans,
for generations to come.”

Due to
their presence in composting packaging, there is a risk that “these chemicals
will get into our food chain,” according to VOICE policy researcher Angela
Ruttledge.

“There has
been an explosion in takeaway packaging during the pandemic and many
businesses, trying to do the right thing, have moved to the type of moulded
plant fibres containers that are likely to contain PFAS,” she added.

VOICE are
calling on an immediate ban of the use of PFAS in packaging and for Ireland to
join Denmark, Germany, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands in working towards a
total ban on the manufacture and use of all PFAS in Europe.

They are
also calling on the Irish Government to advocate for and support a quick
implementation of the objectives in the EU Chemicals Strategy for
Sustainability, which includes a total ban on all non-essential use of PFAS.

“Denmark introduced
a prohibition on PFAS in paper and board food packaging in July 2020. Subsequently,
a survey found no intentional treatment with PFAS in this type of packaging there,”
VOICE chief coordinator Mindy O’Brien said.

“This shows
both that a ban can work and that PFAS-free packaging is available. If Denmark
can do it, we can do it too,” she concluded.

About the Author

Kayle Crosson

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