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From makeup to clothing and furniture, so-called “forever chemicals” are everywhere – including the paper bowls and containers used to package Canadian fast-food meals.
In a recent study published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters, Miriam L. Diamond, a professor in the U of T’s department of Earth sciences and School of the Environment in the Faculty of Arts & Science, and her team examined 42 paper-based wrappers and bowls – often billed as an environmentally friendly alternative to single-use plastics – collected from fast-food restaurants in Toronto.
They were looking for potentially toxic human-made perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), of which there are more than 9,000 in the world.
The most abundant compound detected in the samples was 6:2 FTOH, or 6:2 fluorotelomer alcohol – a PFAS that is known to be toxic. Another finding: fibre-based moulded bowls that are marketed as “compostable” had PFAS levels three to 10 times higher than paper doughnut and pastry bags.