The EPA wants to regulate hazardous ‘forever chemicals,’ which are found in items like pizza boxes, nonstick pans, and cleaning products

A nonstick frying pan.
  • Forever chemicals can’t break down and linger in the soil, water, and air.
  • Many household items contain forever chemicals, including nonstick cookware and cleaning products.
  • EPA Administrator Michael Regan outlined the government’s plan to combat PFAS through 2024.

The Biden administration and the Environmental Protection Agency announced a widespread federal effort Monday to protect Americans from perfluoroalkyls and polyfluoroalkyl compounds, a group of manmade chemicals that have been linked to severe health problems like cancer and thyroid disease, The New York Times reported.

Used in industry and consumer products worldwide, PFAS are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals” due to their inability to break down, which causes them to linger in the environment and migrate into soil, water, and air, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

“To safeguard public health and protect the environment, the efforts being announced will help prevent PFAS from being released into the air, drinking systems, and food supply, and the actions will expand cleanup efforts to remediate the impacts of these harmful pollutants,” a White House fact sheet said.

ATSDR lists a variety of household items that contain forever chemicals, including:

  • Some grease-resistant paper, fast food containers and wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, and candy wrappers
  • Nonstick cookware
  • Stain resistant coatings used on carpets, upholstery, and other fabrics
  • Water resistant clothing
  • Cleaning products
  • Personal care products (shampoo, dental floss) and cosmetics (nail polish, eye makeup)
  • Paints, varnishes, and sealants

As part of the announcement, the EPA Administrator Michael Regan outlined actions that the federal government will take to to mitigate the effects of PFAS, such as holding polluters accountable, preventing further contamination, and investing in more scientific research on the chemicals’ effects.

“We can only make progress if we work in close collaboration with Tribes, states, localities, and stakeholders to enact solutions that follow the science and stand the test of time. To affect meaningful change, engagement, transparency, and accountability will be critical as we move forward,” Regan said in the PFAS Strategic Roadmap.

Other federal bodies involved with efforts to regulate and limit exposure to PFAS include the Department of Defense, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture, Department of Homeland Security, White House Council on Environmental Quality, and the Department of Health and Human Services, according to a White House fact sheet.