Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been produced and widely used for decades, says Consumer Reports Science Editor Kevin Loria. First discovered in the late 1930s, PFAS are resistant to heat, water, grease, corrosion and friction, allowing them to be used in a variety of ways, including in non-stick pans, clothing and food packaging.
Loria explains that chemicals don’t break down naturally, which led to their nickname – “chemicals forever”. Their continued production ends up in the air, water, and soil, making them linked to a number of health issues. Increased diagnosis of certain cancers, kidney and liver damage, high cholesterol, decreased fertility, effects on child development, increased blood pressure during pregnancy, and decreased immune system have all were associated with exposure to PFAS.
Consumer Reports tested 118 different products ranging from salad bowls to burger wrappers, and found some of the highest levels of PFAS in molded fiber bowls which are often associated with healthier food options. Loria says even recycled paper products can potentially be contaminated with PFAS in the printing ink or lubrications in the machinery making the products.