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California Seeks Input on Use of PFAS in Textiles, Various Chemicals in Food Packaging

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control is seeking public input on the use of perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances in textile and leather products, as well as PFAS, bisphenol A and ortho-phthalates in food packaging, as part of a process that could lead to the listing of these product-chemical combinations as priority products under the Safer Consumer Products regulations. If a priority product proposal is finalised and adopted, manufacturers of listed products would be required to look for alternatives to the listed chemical(s) if they want to continue serving the California market. These actions are aimed at further enhancing the safety of consumer products state-wide.

PFAS Treatments in Textile and Leather Products. Input may be submitted by 31 December on a proposal to regulate as priority products under the SCP regulations treatments containing PFAS substances for use on converted textiles or leathers, such as carpets, upholstery, clothing and shoes.

PFAS substances have a wide variety of applications, including in numerous consumer products. Once released to the environment during product manufacture, use or disposal, PFAS become part of a virtually closed cycle leading to chronic human and ecological exposures. DTSC has identified treatments for converted textiles or leathers as significant sources of human and ecological PFAS exposures, especially via inhalation during product use. Treatments for converted textiles or leathers are frequently used in homes and in several occupations and ostensibly contribute to the ubiquitous environmental contamination and exposures, as do other consumer products such as food packaging, cosmetics and waterproof clothing.

PFAS in Food Packaging. Input may be submitted by 14 January on specific questions pertaining to PFAS substances and their alternatives in food packaging products. PFAS are used to impart water, stain and grease resistance to a wide variety of food packaging products made of paper, paperboard and moulded fibre. They also often serve as mould-releasing agents in the production of moulded fibre packaging. Recent testing found PFAS in approximately half of paper and paperboard products tested, including bakery bags, deli wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, French fry boxes, takeout containers and pizza boxes. In other recent studies, PFAS were found in all moulded fibre food packaging products tested, including bowls, soup containers, clamshells, plates and food trays. PFAS can migrate out of food packaging directly into the food items they contain, with migration rates dependent on the temperature, acidity, storage time and fat content of the packaged food.

BPA in Food Packaging. Input may be submitted by 19 December on the use BPA and its alternatives in food packaging. BPA is one of the most studied environmental contaminants in the world and has been classified as an endocrine disrupting chemical due to its ability to disrupt oestrogen, androgen and thyroid-hormone mediated biological pathways. One of the major uses of BPA is to manufacture epoxy-based resins that coat the interior of aluminium and steel food and beverage cans. This chemical may also be used in other food packaging liners, such as jar lids and bottle caps. It has been well documented that, under certain conditions, BPA is capable of migrating out of these liners and into food items, leading to the potential for subsequent dietary exposure in humans. According to DTSC, however, many of the alternatives to BPA have the same hazard traits as this chemical.

Ortho-Phthalates in Food Packaging. Input may be submitted by 19 December on the use of ortho-phthalates in food packaging. One of the primary uses for ortho-phthalates has been as plasticisers for products made of polyvinyl chloride, including some food packaging. Ortho-phthalates have been recognised as potential endocrine disruptors as well as reproductive and developmental toxicants.  Concerns over these potential hazards has prompted various authoritative bodies to restrict the use of some ortho-phthalates in certain children’s products.

The Safer Consumer Products regulations require responsible entities (manufacturers, importers, assemblers and retailers) to notify DTSC when their product is listed as a priority product. Manufacturers or other responsible entities of products listed as priority products are required to perform an “alternatives analysis” for the product and the chemicals of concern in that product to determine how best to limit exposures or the level of adverse public health and environmental impacts posed by the chemicals of concern. DTSC is also required to identify and require implementation of regulatory responses to protect public health and/or the environment and maximise the use of acceptable and feasible alternatives of least concern.

DTSC has the authority to require regulatory responses for a priority product (if the manufacturer decides to retain the priority product) or for an alternative product selected to replace the priority product. This may include ordering the removal or replacement of the chemical of concern in the product or the removal of the product from the California marketplace. To date, children’s foam-padded sleeping products containing tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCPP) or tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP), paint or varnish strippers containing methylene chloride, and spray polyurethane foam systems with unreacted methylene diphenyl diisocyanates have been listed as priority products.

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