When PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) treatments are used in food packaging, they provide a temporary benefit: grease resistance during the short time the packaging holds food. Behind that benefit, however, lies massive pollution that devastates communities such as North Alabama, contributes significantly to climate change and the destruction of the ozone layer, and contaminates communities worldwide with chemicals that last forever.
This report traces the path of American PFAS in food packaging back to one manufacturing company, Daikin America, which manufactures in Decatur, Alabama. We found that in 2019, Daikin’s Decatur PFAS manufacturing plants reported releasing 240,584 pounds of a potent greenhouse gas and ozone-depleting chemical, HCFC22. These emissions make them the nation’s #2 polluter of HCFC-22, and in greenhouse gas terms, equate to emissions from driving 125,000 passenger cars for a year. Daikin’s process for making PFAS also threatens workers’ lives: at least three workers have been killed on the job in Decatur. The drinking water for communities downstream of Daikin’s facilities has been contaminated by Daikin and another facility, with Daikin paying $5 million to the local water utility to address the contamination. And when paper mills apply Daikin’s PFAS treatment to paper, they can release PFAS in wastewater, contaminating rivers and sludge.