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Chemical giants DuPont and Daikin knowingly hid evidence about the dangers of short chain PFAS compounds that are widely used in food packaging, a new investigation by the Guardian has revealed. According to the report, the companies knew of the serious health issues related to these “forever chemical” compounds, yet failed to inform the FDA and concealed this information from the public.
A new investigation based on company studies obtained by journalists at the Guardian has uncovered that DuPont and Daikin, two major manufacturers of short chain PFAS, hid information of the negative results on tests on animals from the public and the FDA since 2010. PFAS are colloquially known as “forever chemicals” as they can build up in our bodies and never break down in the environment.
These company studies were examining 6:2 FTOH compounds – a new generation of short chain PFAS that had been designed to replace older long chain PFAS, which many believed at the time were more harmful. The newer compounds were marketed by the producers as “practically non-toxic” to consumers.
Both firms told the FDA that the short chain PFAS were safer and less likely to build up in humans, but Daikin had withheld a 2009 rat study that suggested toxicity in livers and kidneys, and DuPont did not release information it had in 2012, which showed that the compounds stay in animals’ bodies far longer than initially thought.
A new bed of independent research has also confirmed that all PFAS, regardless of chain size, can lead to human and environmental accumulation, which is linked to a wide range of damaging consequences. 6:2 FTOH has been associated with kidney disease, liver damage, cancer, neurological damage, autoimmune disorders and developmental issues.
Leading epidemiologist Dr. Shanna Swan has also detailed the link between PFAS to declining sperm counts and changing reproductive development that could lead to a fertility crisis “threatening human survival”.
Companies are therefore knowingly exposing consumers to dangerous “forever chemicals”, found in everything from the lining in paper-based food containers and fast food wraps, to a whole host of other non-packaging products such as make-up and cosmetics, and even children’s and baby products such as bottles, cups and pacifiers.
There should be consequences, but oversight is lax.Maricel Maffini, Environmental & Chemical Safety Consultant
The use of PFAS-containing items is so widespread that these compounds have since been detected in our rivers and oceans, sea spray and even in the sky.
PFAS producers’ efforts to hide the dangers mimics the moves made by oil industry giants, who fought clean air regulations despite being fully aware of the grave ill effects of burning fossil fuels, from increasing the risk of birth defects to causing asthma in children.
Commenting on the latest investigation revealing the concealment efforts of the PFAS manufacturers, Maricel Maffini, an independent researcher, told the Guardian that “those things shouldn’t happen”.
If the FDA were provided the up-to-date data and information about the dangers of the newer short chain PFAS, they would not have approved 6:2 FTOH, Maffini added. However, there is still little regulation or punishment for companies’ actions. “There should be consequences, but oversight is lax.”
The fact that we continue to uncover evidence that the current-use PFAS have similar toxicity to the [long chain] compounds that have been phased out makes a strong argument for regulating harmful chemicals like PFAS as a class.Erika Schreder, Science Director, Toxic Free Future
According to the Guardian report, it was only in 2020 that the FDA reached agreements with major FPAS producers to stop using 6:2 FTOH compounds in food packaging within five years, but the phase-out does not include other similar short chain PFAS.
Tom Nelter, chemicals policy director with the Environmental Defense Fund, told the paper that it is vital that authorities provide more consumer protections against PFAS.
“I think people need to be able to rely on the FDA to turn science at the agency into real action, and right now that doesn’t seem to be the case,” said Neltner.
Erika Schreder, science director for Toxic Free Future, agreed, saying: “The fact that we continue to uncover evidence that the current-use PFAS have similar toxicity to the [long chain] compounds that have been phased out makes a strong argument for regulating harmful chemicals like PFAS as a class.”
Lead image courtesy of iStock.