Tuesday, December 17, 2019

When your Favorite Lunchbox Contains Harmful Water Repellant Chemicals

Add our go-to favorite lunchbox Planetbox to the list of products that contain PFAS chemicals.

My heart almost stopped when I thoroughly read the description to their carry boxes on their website

 “ Inside fabric is polyester with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish for a convenient wipe down surface.”

By now, I know that “DWR”  almost always means that a member of the PFAS  Perfluorocarbons ) family has been used as a base for treating fabrics and making them repel moisture.

Why are PFAS chemicals harmful?
PFAS chemicals are linked to testicular and kidney cancer, thyroid disease, obesity, weakened immunity and other health problems- they stay in our bodies and environment for a very very long time. 

Some of the most infamous are PFOA and PFOS (‘Teflon’ being one of them), these chemicals are long-chain (C8) fluorocarbon-based (they are referred to as C8)

Many companies stopped using the very well studied and toxic C8 chemicals,  PFOA and PFOS, in their water repellent finishes and started using a substitute chemical, C6.  While c6 is still part of the PFAS family, these chemicals have less carbon  - 6 vs 8 and were thought to be less harmful.  

The decision to make this substitution was taken by many well known companies (Patagonia, for example) without studies having been conducted to show it really was a safer alternative.   Fast forward some time and studies are showing C6 is also quite harmful… unfortunately C6 DWR is now widely used in most water repellent products (winter gear, carpets, outdoor fabrics, upholstery etc), including children’s lunchboxes

Back to Planet Box...
I obviously contacted the company and they explained that 
“ The Outside fabric is made from durable, 100% recycled polyester fiber with a DWR finish. Inside fabric is polyester with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish for a convenient wipe down surface. Our DWR is in line with industry standards… and as always, we are actively working to source more eco materials that meet a moms need of being easy to clean/durable and also as eco friendly as possible by next Back to School Season. “

The good news is that PlanetBox is making a change. They later confirmed “We are currently re-sourcing our carry bags and the new supplier will use a material that does not contain DWR. Those bags will be available next year.” (2020)

What do you do in the meantime?
I still like the actual stainless steel Planet box.   Stainless steel remains the safest material available for kids lunch boxes. So this is what I am doing with my kids:

  1. As soon as I found out I stopped using the PlanetBox’s and went back to my @soyounginc lunchboxes that do not contain DWR.   I used my @lunchbots and @ukonserve containers, which I have had for years (and use for snacks daily!) 
  2. I did want to continue using my PlanetBoxes and so I ordered their light wraps which they confirmed do not contain DWR.  I will be using this for a while

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