If you need another reason to avoid fast food, consider that the grease-proof packaging that prevents burgers and fries from soiling your hands contains cancer-causing chemicals that remain in your body until you die.
Per- and polyfluoralkyl substances, or PFAS chemicals, are a family of greaseproof, waterproof and nonstick industrial compounds, explains the website, PFASProject.com.
Last week, McDonald’s restaurants, which is the largest fast food chain in the world, announced it would phase out PFAS packaging by 2025. A family health advocacy group website claims that over a million Big Mac boxes are discarded each day, and those boxes are contaminating landfills with PFAS chemicals.
In August of last year, over 70,000 people signed a Change.org petition, calling on McDonald’s to ditch the poisonous packaging. The petition also shed light on the damage that PFAS caused in communities such as Decatur, Alabama, where the chemical giant 3M makes PFAS chemicals.
(3M is at the center of the largest mass tort case in U.S. history over the defective earplugs it approved for the U.S. military.)
SaferChemicals.org says that in addition to individual consumers, McDonald’s was also pressured by the Learning Disabilities Association of America, the ARC, and learning and developmental disabilities organizations in more than 20 states.
Health Problems Associated With PFAS
According to Michigan Live, PFAS has been linked to several health problems, including:
- Thyroid disease
- High cholesterol
- Impaired immune system response
In addition to contaminating landfills, PFAS chemicals can contaminate municipal drinking water sources. Also, exposure to the toxic substances may lessen the effectiveness of the COVID vaccine.
Despite the announcement by McDonald’s, advocacy groups are pressuring the fast food chain to speed up its commitment to eschewing the use of PFAS chemicals in its packaging. The decision by McDonald’s will hopefully spur on other fast food chains to adopt similar measures, advocacy groups believe.
Under the Trump administration, federal rules to regulate the chemicals failed to gain traction. Environmental and other advocates feel hopeful that the Biden administration will address the issue of removing these forever chemicals from landfills, the water supply, and ultimately, from human tissue.