Bioaccumulation of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) is a serious threat to humans and animals. A major source of bioaccumulative chemicals in the environment is the paper and cardboard that ends up in landfills and recycling plants. Coatings and additives used in cardboard and paper products remain in the environment and spread after these products are discarded, eventually accumulating in the environment and in animals’ fatty tissues. Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are a variety of fluorochemicals that companies have historically used in food and fast food packaging because they resist oil and water. However, scientists have recently shown that these fluorochemicals, especially long-chain PFCs, tend to bioaccumulate.
It is the responsibility of companies that produce coated paper and cardboard to use coatings that will not become POPs when the paper products are recycled or thrown away. Bercen is a specialty chemical company which recently debuted EcoARMOUR, a functional coating for paper products that is free of fluorochemicals and will not break down into harmful POPs in landfills and recycling plants. EcoARMOUR is recyclable, repulpable and highly resistant to liquids.
Bioaccumulation is a global problem. Paper and cardboard coatings break down into POPs that are released into the environment during the recycling process or by seeping into groundwater at landfills. Several studies have revealed how problematic these compounds are for human health. A recent five-year longitudinal study by Olsen et al. tracked the concentration of PFCs in blood samples from several 3M retirees, who had been exposed to PFCs at work. They discovered that the half-lives of PFCs in humans were several years long – much longer than the half-lives of these compounds in animal models which ranged from mere hours to days. Long half-lives indicate that when humans are exposed to PFCs, they continue to be exposed for years to come. This is a major issue because PFCs have been linked to increased risk of certain cancers, developmental problems and reproductive harm.
There are a number of ways humans may be exposed to fluorochemicals, but by far the most concerning to the general population is consumption of fluorochemical-contaminated water and food products. PFCs have been found in drinking water samples from China, Japan, and areas of California. Without intervention, this problem will only continue to grow and spread. PFCs in the packaging material of fast foods and dairy products like butter and yogurt can leech into the food itself and be eaten. Fortunately, companies that use paper and cardboard products in packaging are turning toward coatings like Bercen’s EcoARMOUR that will not cause harm to their consumers or the environment as a whole.
Paper and cardboard manufacturers still need liquid-resistant coatings to protect their products, but the coatings they use must not be bioaccumulative and harmful. EcoARMOUR is an ideal coating solution for these manufacturers because it serves the same purpose that typical POP-containing coatings do, without harmful fluorochemicals. EcoARMOUR coating is completely recyclable and repulpable. Consider using EcoARMOUR in your products to make them safer for your customers and the environment we all share.
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