The FDA announced today that manufacturers of five greaseproofing agents known as C8 compounds have voluntarily withdrawn them from the marketplace. Those compounds are used as coatings on paper wrappers and containers which come into contact with food. They are found on fast-food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, and pet food bags and are used to prevent grease from foods from leaking through packaging.
The compounds are perfluorinated grease proofing agents. Perfluorinated compounds (PFC) have had all the hydrogen molecules on a carbon chain replaced by fluorine. One common PFC is perfluorooctanoic acid, which is used to make Teflon.
Scientific studies have shown that C8 compounds persist in the environment and can be toxic to humans over time. Almost every person has traces of perfluorinated chemicals in their bodies. In January, we told you about a study that found PFCs can compromise human immune systems. The FDA initiated a review of the data on C8 compounds last year, and the manufacturers volunteered to stop distributing the compounds on October 1, 2011.
There are still products with C8 in the marketplace, but the FDA says that “these products will be out of the marketplace in a relatively short period of time.” The Agency is going to conduct a market survey of food packaging to make sure that C8 compounds are not used in material that comes in contact with human or animal food.
A C8 class-action lawsuit against DuPont, one of the manufacturers of the chemical, prompted the assembly of two panels called the “C8 Science Panel” and the “C8 Medical Panel”. Those groups monitor the health of people living near the DuPont plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia to determine if there is any “probable” link between C8 exposure and disease. The lawsuit was settled in 2005.
The C8 Science Panel did find a link between C8 exposure and pregnancy-induced hypertension and found that children living near the plant were exposed to much higher concentrations of C8 than their mothers, but did not find links between C8 exposure and risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight infants, or birth defects.
The C8 Science Panel announced on June 27, 2012 that the final reports on the “Probable Link” evaluations will not be released until October 2012.