PFAS chemicals pose a danger to human health unlike any other. For the past several years, our state has been focused on how Vermonters might be exposed to PFAS pollution through drinking water – and rightfully so. This concern stemmed from the now well-known 2016 discovery of high levels of PFAS in hundreds of drinking water wells in Bennington County. As of August 2020, nine public water systems in Vermont have tested above the interim state maximum contaminant level for PFAS, with six public water systems issuing ‘Do Not Drink’ orders after confirming elevated PFAS levels with multiple tests.
More recently, we have been looking upstream to figure out how PFAS ends up in our water and bodies in the first place. We know they’re found in everything from ski wax to carpets to nonstick pots and pans, and most disturbingly – we’re finding them in food packaging used by millions of Americans every day.
Companies put these chemicals inside wrappers, bowls, and other takeaway packaging to make them grease resistant. But a few minutes of convenience will create several lifetimes of pollution.
When PFAS are manufactured for packaging, they can pollute the drinking water in communities around the plants. Then, they migrate from packaging to the food inside, entering our bodies. After the packaging is used briefly, the chemicals can pollute the air and water around landfill or incinerators. PFAS can also once more end up in our food when packaging is composted or when sludge made from landfill leachate is spread on farms. This needs to end.
A recent report found that nearly half of all take-out food packaging tested from fast-food chains – including McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s – had fluorine levels suggesting PFAS treatment. This includes three of the packaging items tested from McDonald’s – the Big Mac box, the small fry bag, and the McCafe soft-baked cookie bag. The company sells over a million Big Macs a day in the U.S. alone.
At the same time, the study also found a number of samples from McDonald’s that didn’t appear to contain PFAS, demonstrating the company already knows how to avoid PFAS. Other companies, such as Chipotle, Taco Bell, and Sweetgreen are making plans to address these chemicals in food packaging – there’s no reason McDonald’s can’t, too.
That’s why we’re joining a national call to action, urging McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast-food chain, to go PFAS-free. Major companies like this must be held accountable for using unnecessary toxic chemicals.
Will you join the call-in to McDonald’s? Here’s what you need to do:
1. Call McDonald’s customer service at 1-800-244-6227 and, when you hear the automated message asking why you’re calling, say “give restaurant feedback.”
2. Tell the customer service representative you want the company to ban PFAS chemicals in their food packaging.
This action only takes a few minutes and can make a big difference when we all come together.