The California State Legislature is on the brink of banning one type of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) from food wrappers, starting in 2010. Both the California Senate and Assembly have passed versions of a bill to stop the use of food packaging containing eight-carbon PFCs in the state.
PFCs impart oil, stain, grease, and water repellency to food wrappers. But the chemicals are biopersistent, and some are linked to health problems.
California’s Senate is expected to vote by Aug. 30 on a bill (S.B. 1313) that the Assembly passed on Aug. 27. The Senate passed an earlier version of the bill that would have banned all PFCs from materials that have contact with food. After lobbying by the chemical industry, the Assembly narrowed the scope of the bill to just the eight-carbon PFCs.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has not indicated whether he would sign the bill if the Senate concurs on the Assembly-passed version. The Chemical Industry Council of California, the American Chemistry Council, Ciba, DuPont, and Hercules have fought hard against the bill and are seeking a veto from Schwarzenegger, says John Ulrich, executive director of the California Industry Council.
Chemical makers argue that a widely used PFC, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), is already being managed well at the federal level. Under a voluntary initiative created by Environmental Protection Agency, eight major manufacturers of PFOA pledged to reduce worldwide emissions and product content of PFOA and related chemicals 95% by 2010 and to work toward eliminating emissions and product content of these chemicals by 2015.
For some observers, volunteer approaches are questionable. “The federal government’s toothless approach does not ensure that people will be protected from these chemicals,” says Renée Sharp, senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group, an activist organization that supports S.B. 1313.