Microwave popcorn is a popular snack, and is often a big part of after-school homework sessions, mid-day break-room microwaves and family movie nights. Unfortunately, research shows that the bags microwave popcorn comes in are almost always laced with toxic PFAS chemicals — which can lead to devastating health effects.
Organizations like WashPIRG are valiantly pushing to ban PFAS chemicals in food packaging, but in the meantime, here are a few things they want us to know:
“PFAS chemicals are linked to serious health problems, including cancer.
Studies indicate that two kinds of PFAS chemicals — PFOA and PFOS — can cause tumors, reproductive and developmental issues, liver and kidney problems, and immunological effects in lab animals. Findings also linked the chemicals to low infant birth weights, cancer and thyroid hormone disruption.1 These studies don’t mean that if you eat microwave popcorn, you’ll automatically be stricken with these health effects. But they do suggest you’re taking a risk — an unnecessary one at that — when you eat it.
Every microwavable popcorn bag tested in 2017 came back positive for PFAS.
In 2017, the Center for Environmental Health tested a range of microwave popcorn brands sold at dollar stores. Every brand the group purchased tested positive, including Act II, Orville Redenbacher’s, Pop Secret, Clover Valley, Lowrey’s, Regal Cinemas and Pop Weaver.2
Because of the ubiquity of PFAS-laced popcorn bags, we recommend making your own.
If you love popcorn, but don’t want to risk exposure to toxic chemicals, you can still buy non-microwavable popcorn or make your own at home. According to renowned food writer Mark Bittman, all you need is corn oil, popping corn, butter and salt.3 And it only takes 10 minutes.”
We will add our own advice: Avoid microwave popcorn and movie theater popcorn ANYWAY, because the corn is heavy with GMOs and the “butter” is chemically derived. Opt for air-popped organic, non-GMO popcorn and organic butter or no butter and organic seasoning blends.
1. “Basic Information on PFAS,” United States Environmental Protection Agency, last updated on February 8, 2018.
2. “PFASs in Popcorn Bags and Pizza Boxes,” Toxic-Free Future, accessed on April 5, 2018.
3. Mark Bittman, “Real Popcorn,” The New York Times, accessed on April 5, 2018.
4. Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, “Washington Approves First-in-Nation Ban on Nonstick ‘PFAS’ Chemicals in Food Packaging,” Toxic-Free Future, March 1, 2018.