Amazon has banned the use of certain chemicals in its Amazon Kitchen brand products and food packaging. The company’s decision to exclude chemicals of concern only affects its private brands for now. The chemicals have been linked to various health problems and other effects, such as environmental issues.

What Are the Chemicals of Concern?

Amazon’s definition of chemicals of concern includes substances that are a “carcinogen, mutagen, reproductive or other systemic toxicant,” and products that are “persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic.” Although Amazon has mentioned it is encouraging manufacturers to avoid these potentially toxic chemicals, the company is focusing on its own private brands because it has complete control over them.

The restricted substances on Amazon’s list include antiseptics (antimicrobial substances), nonylphenols and nonylphenol ethoxylates (detergent-like substances), formaldehyde donor preservatives (substances that slowly release formaldehyde over time), parabens (preservatives) and phthalates (chemicals to make plastics more flexible). The list has more than 50 items ranging from triclosan (antimicrobial chemical) to propylparaben (preservative).

Amazon has an additional food contact materials restricted substance list (RSL) for its Amazon Kitchen brand products. The company avoids specific chemicals in the food packaging, so they do not come in contact with the items consumers eat. Some of the substances on the list include arsenic and heavy metals like lead.

The company is also restricting non-recyclable materials in its Amazon Kitchen brand food contact packaging. This eliminates chemicals such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) and polystyrene (Styrofoam).

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Some of the substances on the restricted lists have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, pregnancy complications, hormone disruption and developmental problems in children. Some also have a negative impact on the environment, such as soil contamination.

Why Amazon Is Removing PFAS

It is important to note that Amazon is eliminating PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), which are known as forever chemicals because they do not break down in the environment and can build up in the human body. PFAS chemicals have often been used as a coating on packaging for food products, such as cardboard and paper wrappers.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PFAS may cause cancer, thyroid hormone disruption, low birth weight in infants, high cholesterol levels and negative effects on the immune system. In addition, PFAS may cause developmental, reproductive, kidney and liver problems.

In 2020, Amazon faced a class action lawsuit over using PFAS in its Amazon Kitchen brand products, which included disposable plates and bowls. The lawsuit alleged that Amazon was selling the items with labels that they were compostable. PFAS is not considered compostable because it does not break down in the soil. Although the lawsuit was dropped, the company moved forward with eliminating PFAS from its products.  

Amazon is part of a growing trend to eliminate toxic chemicals from food packaging and other products that consumers use on a regular basis. Considering the potential health and environmental effects of using chemicals of concern, this is an important trend.

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