PFAS chemicals found in biodegradable food containers can leach out and build up in compost

A worrisome class of chemicals called PFAS are found in some compostable food containers and many other consumer items like nonstick cookware. The compounds can leach out of the containers and build up in compost

Perfluoroalkyl Acid Characterization in U.S. Municipal Organic Solid Waste Composts


Composting the organic fraction of municipal solid waste (OFMSW) creates a nutrient rich soil amendment and reduces the amounts of wastes going to landfills or incineration. However, the occurrence and fate of persistent and challenging per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in OFMSW composts have not been well studied.

The loads and leachability of 17 perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) were analyzed in nine OFMSW commercial composts and one backyard compost. PFAA loads ranged from 28.7 to 75.9 μg/kg for OFMSW composts that included food packaging and from 2.38 to 7.60 μg/kg for composts that did not include food packaging. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) were detected in all composts; however, OFMSW composts were dominated by short-chain PFAAs (>64%) and perfluoroalkyl carboxylates (PFCAs, >68%), particularly the C6 PFCA. The total oxidizable precursor assay indicated the presence of PFAS precursors in three OFMSW composts for which 6:2 fluorotelomer sulfonate and 6:2 dipolyfluoroalkyl phosphate ester were identified. Of the total PFAA load in the composts, 25–49% was released to porewater (∼1 g/2 mL). PFAA porewater concentrations versus PFAA loads as well as organic carbon-normalized sorption coefficients versus the number of PFAA CF2 units are strongly correlated (R2 > 0.85).

Study. Press release. Image.

High levels of toxic PFAS chemicals pollute breast milk around the world, IPEN reports

PFAS Pollution across the Middle East and Asia, 2019 IPEN Report

Decades after DuPont and 3M first discovered that the perfluorinated chemicals making them fortunes could be transmitted from mothers to babies, millions of women around the world are passing dangerous amounts of these toxic compounds to their children, according to a new IPEN document, the intercept reports.


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is a large class of more than 4,500 fluorinated chemicals that have received significant public and media attention in Australia, EU, and the US, in part due to their toxicity, extreme persistence, and documented water pollution. However, information about PFAS in other parts of the world is largely lacking and the information which is available is difficult to access.

In 2019, IPEN participating organizations in twelve Middle Eastern and Asian countries conducted surveys to explore possible PFAS uses and pollution sources, scientific studies and government actions, including under the Stockholm Convention. Countries covered include: Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Key Findings

  • PFAS are poorly regulated in all countries examine
  • PFAS substances contaminate adults and infants
  • Water pollution with PFAS substances is widespread
  • Marine and terrestrial organisms are contaminated with PFAS
  • Firefighting foams and extinguishers containing PFAS are in use
  • Consumer products are contaminated with PFAS
  • PFAS substances contaminate dust and particulate air pollution
  • US military bases in Japan cause PFAS pollution
  • Japan is an important PFAS producer
  • PFAS elimination contributes to achievement of the Sustainable
  • Development Goals (SDGs)

EU Parliament calling for the EU Commission to stop dithering and start acting on endocrine disruption

Endocrine disruptors drop the curtain on this European Parliament

On Thursday (18 April), the European Parliament adopted a non-binding resolution asking the European Commission to ensure a higher level of protection against endocrine disruptors (EDCs) by making a legislative proposal on the matter no later than June 2020.

It passed with 447 votes in favour, 14 against and 41 abstentions, and was actually the last text to be dealt with by this Parliament.

MEPs proposed treating EDCs or potential EDCs on an equal footing with substances classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction, the so-called CMR substances prohibited in EU cosmetics legislation.

EDCs are a class of chemicals commonly found throughout our environment in children’s products, food containers, personal care products, pesticides and furniture. These hazardous substances alter the functioning of the hormonal system, having a negative effect on the health of humans and animals.

Close to 800 chemicals are known or suspected to be capable of interfering with hormone receptors, hormone synthesis or hormone conversion, according to a report drafted in 2012 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The EU started discussing the issue as early as 1996 and recognised EDCs as a health and environmental hazard in its “Community Strategy for endocrine disruptors” adopted by the Commission in December 1999.

The EU executive revamped interest in the topic last November publishing a new strategy for endocrine disruptors and launching a comprehensive screening of the legislation applicable to EDCs through a fitness check.

According to the lawmakers, the response is so far not adequate to the health threat, as the EU framework for EDCs suggested by the Commission in November lacks both a concrete action plan to minimise exposure to EDCs and a timeline for the next steps to move forward.

Plenary debate

Representing the EU executive before the plenary, Violeta Bulc defended the EU efforts:

“We can be proud of the progress we have achieved since there, we are recognised as one of the global leaders in dealing with these substances.”

“However, this is not enough: EDCs remain today a global challenge and a source of concern for many citizens,”

she said.

She added that the Commission adopted its communication in November in order to step up the EU approach and that the cross-cutting fitness check should be finalised in the first half of 2020, followed by a 12-week-long public consultation.

Before the end of the year, the Commission will also organise the first annual meeting of stakeholders and the launch of a new web portal, as part of the comprehensive set of actions to achieve the objectives included in the communication.

Although the resolution was backed by all the political groups within the Parliament, the European People’s Party (EPP) criticised a sort of “ideological hysteria” on EDCs and, in particular, the attempt of putting on the same level suspected and proven EDCs.

“This goes too far, goes too quickly and it’s not based on scientific evidence,”

said centre-right British MEP Julie Girling.

Green and liberal lawmakers strongly criticised the definition of EDCs included in the Commission strategy, as it seems to apply only to pesticides and other plant production products.

“Now we know that 80% of exposure comes through the food, so EDCs should be banned in all of the materials in contact with food but also in cosmetics and toys,”

said Belgian liberal Frédérique Ries.

Strong political signal

EURACTIV asked Prof. Barbara Demeneix, chair of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Task Force at Endocrine Society and among the authors of a scientific report on EDCs commissioned by the Parliament’s PETI committee published last March, for her thoughts.

She hailed the call to take concrete action to regulate endocrine disruptors, which are so prevalent in our daily lives.

According to the scientist, the Parliament has sent a strong political signal to both European ministers and the Commission with the adoption of this resolution by a clear cross-party consensus.

“Their call for clear and prompt EU actions is fully justified by the available science-based evidence of increasing damage to public health and it can no longer be ignored by the EU and other countries,”

Demeneix said.

Asked about the Perfluoroalkylated substances (PFAS), she said that the topic is particularly worrying, as several thousand of them exist and only a couple are banned.

“The fact that these substances interfere with thyroid hormone homeostasis and affect immune responses is clearly demonstrated, both by epidemiology and laboratory tests,”

she concluded.


Effects of PFAs during pregnancy : New research underway in New Hampshire

New research about the effects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances on pregnant women and young children is being performed in NH

Andrea Amico, co-founder of the community activist group Testing for Pease, said even though more is being learned nationally about the effects of PFAS exposure on the adult population, there is a gap that needs to be filled when it comes to the next generation.

“Our babies are already born contaminated,” “Children are a very sensitive population and we need to take extra precautions in examining their exposure to make sure they are safe.”

Amico said.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say some studies already suggest PFAS exposure may affect growth, learning and behavior of infants and older children, as well as lower a woman’s chances of getting pregnant. In Portsmouth, Amico’s organization is working as a community liaison for a $2.6 million federally funded study that will examine the effects of PFAS on the immune systems of kindergarteners exposed to contaminated drinking water at Pease International Tradeport and on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod.

Shaina Kasper, New Hampshire state director for Toxics Action Center, said they hope this research will add to the body of knowledge on PFAS and the effects of exposure in utero and as young children. Researchers from Silent Spring Institute and Northeastern University will examine the children’s immune response before and after their kindergarten booster shots, she said.

At the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College in Hanover, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology Megan Romano is working with the New Hampshire Birth Cohort to get data for 1,000 women from the Concord and Lebanon regions. She hopes to find out more about PFAS exposure’s effects on gestational weight gain, breastfeeding and early life physical growth of children. Romano said the blood samples she is using were already collected by the cohort in 2009, when there was concern about arsenic in private water wells. The samples were taken from women between 18 and 45 years old who were between 24 and 28 weeks pregnant.

“We’re hoping to have the exposure data back some time in June. It will probably be six or seven months before we have findings we can publish,”

Romano said.

Romano said even though there is not strong evidence yet to support the theory that PFAS exposure could lead to more serious health issues for children, such as pediatric cancers, there are still many areas to explore as scientists learn more about the contaminants. The CDC says PFAS exposure can increase the risk of cancer in adults.

“I think it’s an important question for us to understand more about,”

Romano said.

Earlier this month, officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unveiled their action plan for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. It is the first time the agency has built a multi-media, multi-program, national communication and research plan to address an emerging environmental challenge like PFAS. EPA officials intend to establish a maximum contaminant level for PFOA and PFOS, two of the most well-known and prevalent PFAS chemicals. By the end of this year, they will propose a regulatory determination, which is the next step in the Safe Water Drinking Act process for establishing a MCL. In May of last year, EPA convened a two-day National Leadership Summit on PFAS in Washington, D.C., that brought together more than 200 federal, state and local leaders from across the country to discuss steps to address PFAS. Following that summit, the agency hosted a series of community engagement events, including one in Exeter.

U.S. children affected by their parents’ chemical exposure that happened prior their own birth

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in sera from children 3 to 11 years of age participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2013–2014

Survey shows high prevalence of exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) among 3-11 year old US children, most born after perfluorooctanyl sulfonate (PFOS) was discontinued in the USA.

2017 Study Abstract

Several per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been measured in U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) participants 12 years of age and older since 1999–2000, but PFAS data using NHANES individual samples among children younger than 12 years do not exist.

To obtain the first nationally representative PFAS exposure data in U.S. children, we quantified serum concentrations of 14 PFAS including perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), in a nationally representative subsample of 639 3–11 year old participants in NHANES 2013–2014.

We used on-line solid-phase extraction coupled to isotope dilution-high performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry; limits of detection were 0.1 ng/mL for all analytes. We calculated geometric mean concentrations, determined weighted Pearson correlations, and used linear regression to evaluate associations of sex, age (3–5 vs 6–11 years), race/ethnicity (Hispanic vs non-Hispanic), household income, and body mass index with concentrations of PFAS detected in more than 60% of participants.

We detected PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, and PFNA in all children at concentrations similar to those of NHANES 2013–2014 adolescents and adults, suggesting prevalent exposure to these PFAS or their precursors among U.S. 3–11 year old children, most of whom were born after the phase out of PFOS in the United States in 2002.

PFAS concentration differences by sex, race/ethnicity, and age suggest lifestyle differences that may impact exposure, and highlight the importance of identifying exposure sources and of studying the environmental fate and transport of PFAS.

More Information

  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in sera from children 3 to 11 years of age participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2013–2014, sciencedirect, Volume 221, Issue 1, Pages 9-16, January 2018.
  • Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) via house dust featured image sciencedirect, May 2016.