US – The US state of New York has officially banned the use of polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals in food packaging materials.

The ban is one of several new laws limiting the use of 1,4-dioxane, perfluoroalkyl substances, PFAS and other chemicals in household cleaning, personal care, cosmetics, food packaging and children’s products across the state.

Effective on January 1, the ban is enforced under the Hazardous Packaging Act and applies to any packaging products designed for direct food contact.

The move follows a bipartisan amendment passed by the US Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions in June last year, which sought to bring a nationwide restriction on PFAS chemicals.

These so-called “forever chemicals” are commonly used in paper packaging as water-repellent and grease-proofing treatments but have been linked to a wide range of health issues.

New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) commissioner Basil Seggos said: “DEC prioritizes the health and well-being of New Yorkers and our environment, and the implementation of new laws for chemicals in everyday household products is part of our state’s ongoing commitment to protect communities.

“With the start of the new year, these stringent requirements will build upon our nation-leading efforts to prevent exposure to emerging contaminants.”

New York’s ban is another step toward eradicating the use of PFAS in the US entirely. The group constitutes around 12,000 different chemicals that do not break down in the environment and transfer into drinking water and soil.

These substances have been linked to decreased vaccine response, cancer, increased cholesterol levels, pregnancy-induced hypertension, liver damage, reduced fertility and increased risk of thyroid disease.

As legislation against PFAS tightens in the US and other countries, researchers are developing alternative materials that can replace the chemicals without causing harm to consumers.

Recent research by Flinders University in Australia and One-Five, a German biomaterials developer, uses seaweed extracts to develop biopolymer coating materials to replace PFAS in foodservice packaging.

The researchers developed a prototype coating from seaweed that they claim meets the functional requirements of conventional grease-resistant packaging materials.

Using seaweed creates a circular solution, allowing the grease-resistant film to biodegrade, deriving from natural ingredients.

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