Maine environmental regulators are shifting forward with plans to ban the sale of foodstuff packaging created with PFAS, signing up for a little but expanding number of states focusing on a possible publicity pathway to the “forever chemical compounds.”
For years, numerous food items packaging makers — which include some with factories in Maine — have used PFAS coatings to maintain paper-primarily based containers from turning into soggy, greasy messes. But the exact same tough chemical bonds that make PFAS so practical in nonstick cookware, waterproof materials and meals packaging also avoid the compounds from breaking down quickly in the physique and the surroundings, therefore the nickname “eternally chemical compounds.”
A escalating physique of scientific reports have also linked some PFAS to overall health problems this kind of as most cancers, kidney disease, very low start excess weight and disruption of the endocrine system.
Maine was the 2nd state — just after Washington — to go a law in 2019 aimed at taking away PFAS from quick-meals wrappers, pizza boxes, picnic plates, consider-out containers and other single-use foods packaging. Fairly than blaze a new path, Maine lawmakers opted to rely on Washington’s prepared analysis of whether or not there have been safer, reasonably priced alternatives available in the market right before banning containers created with PFAS.
Two experiments afterwards, Washington began prohibiting some foodstuff containers in February. And earlier this thirty day period, the Maine Division of Environmental Security unveiled concept draft language for guidelines that would ban PFAS in 9 sorts of foods packaging.
DEP Commissioner Melanie Loyzim mentioned she hopes the Maine Board of Environmental Defense and the Legislature will approve the remaining procedures next 12 months. But she explained the proposal as getting component of Maine’s two-pronged strategy to address both equally present contamination and the PFAS nevertheless exhibiting up in the squander stream.
“We’ve got it even now coming into our waste stream and it’s coming from items like PFAS in food stuff packaging and PFAS in merchandise,” Loyzim claimed in an job interview very last week. “So if we want to consider to get it out of our squander stream and not have it proceed to go into our environment, we have to do supply reduction. And this is likely to be an crucial part of that technique.”
Short for for each- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, PFAS is a family members of much more than 10,000 chemical substances that are widely applied in buyer solutions as effectively as substantial-tech products and firefighting foam. But the very long-lasting chemicals are exhibiting up in drinking water materials across the state. And right here in Maine, tests has revealed dangerously high ranges of more mature, toxic versions of PFAS in dozens of farm fields wherever sludge was utilized as fertilizer as properly as in nearby wells and h2o sources.
Maine was the initially point out to have to have PFAS tests of sludge and later on banned re-purposing the squander as farm fertilizer. Lawmakers also designed headlines two yrs ago when they handed a very first-in-the-nation invoice to ban PFAS in all products and solutions bought in the condition by 2030.
But right before that comes about, Maine environmental regulators want to take out PFAS from foods packaging.
“In this certain instance, we are a very little little bit in the middle of the pack. Ordinarily on PFAS we are top,” mentioned Sarah Woodbury, who will work on PFAS policy difficulties with the Portland-centered organization Protect Our Health and fitness.
Whilst Woodbury mentioned quite a few other states have moved a lot quicker, she additional that it made feeling for Maine to piggyback on Washington’s get the job done on determining safer possibilities.
“Our marketplaces could be a little distinct, but in the grand plan of matters, food packaging is foods packaging,” Woodbury stated. “And so we know what is out there for options so it tends to make feeling to foundation the alternatives off of what Washington condition has performed and kind of use all of their tough operate alternatively of remaking the wheel to attempt to do our own matter.”
The packaging market has been intensely involved in state dwelling policy discussions from Augusta to Olympia to Sacramento. A consultant for the American Institute for Packaging and Atmosphere declined to remark for this tale but says the trade group would formally react to the Maine DEP’s draft guidelines.
Erika Schreder, science director at the Seattle-centered team Harmful-Free of charge Upcoming, said she hasn’t heard about any container shortages because Washington commenced rolling out its new policies in February.
“What we have read is that the big companies of food stuff packaging in the United States have all now moved absent from PFAS,” Schreder said.
Schreder reported that as additional states acquire action, main chains like McDonald’s, Whole Foods and Starbucks have announced they are switching to PFAS-cost-free packaging. The exact same matter happened far more than a 10 years ago when health problems prompted Washington and Maine to ban specified flame retardant in carpets, upholstered furniture and appliances. Other states adopted match and companies altered the formulations.
“We have observed more than the decades that when states pass legal guidelines, providers pay out consideration and they start off going toward safer alternatives,” Schreder mentioned. “And this has been going on for a long time.”
Maine’s prohibition would only use to producers with a lot more than $1 billion in sales. The DEP’s Loyzim claimed the intention is to seize the sector leaders devoid of harming smaller producers.
“With any luck , this kind of receives at the most significant and greatest sources that are in distribution,” Loyzim reported. “If we discover after implementation there are entities that have been excluded that may perhaps be key contributors to PFAS in the squander stream, that is absolutely a restrict that can generally be revisited by the Legislature.”
Loyzim extra that the DEP is just setting up the lengthy rulemaking method. Both of those the Maine Board of Environmental Protection and the Legislature will have to finally approve the regulations.