Rapper, Kindergartners Make Educational Video About Toxic Microwave Popcorn

New Testing Finds 100% of Sampled Microwave Popcorn Bags Contain Hazardous Chemicals

For Immediate Release: March 28, 2018

Contact: Caroline Cox, CEH, 541-654-2626, caroline@ceh.org, Zack Kaldveer, CEH, 510-938-2664

Today, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) and Campaign for Healthier Solutions (CHS) released a video featuring well-known Oakland rapper Mystic and a local kindergarten class to educate families about dangerous toxic chemicals put in microwave popcorn bags. The cute and engaging “rap video”—shot at Roses in Concrete Community School in East Oakland— and a supporting fact sheet also teaches families how to make their own safe, toxic-free microwave popcorn.

Independent testing by CEH found fluorinated additives (PFAS) in every microwave popcorn bag tested. PFAS confuse our bodies’ hormones and damage the liver and kidney. And children are exposed often because they eat popcorn frequently. There are hundreds of PFAS chemicals, yet there is no publicly available information about which ones are used in microwave popcorn products.

In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that certain PFAS chemicals could migrate out of microwave popcorn bags and contaminate popcorn. A 2007 publication from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tested 17 types of microwave popcorn from eight different brands and detected PFAS in the air from just-heated popcorn bags, suggesting people might also inhale these chemicals when eating microwave popcorn.

All the major microwave popcorn brands tested contained PFAS, including ACT II, Pop Secret, Orville Redenbacher’s, Popweaver, Regal Cinemas, and Clover Valley.

The video is part of a larger effort to convince discount retailers including Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Dollar General, and 99 Cents Only to embrace greater corporate responsibility and protect the health of customers and their families. As part of this effort, CEH focused its testing on bags from Dollar Stores. Dollar Stores – frequented by millions of low-income Americans on tight budgets – do not typically provide popcorn kernels as other retailers have, which are needed for making safer popcorn.

“These toxic chemicals were found in every microwave popcorn bag we tested. This is particularly alarming for children, whose bodies are still developing,“ said Caroline Cox, Senior Scientist at CEH. ”All kids – regardless of where they shop, income level, or race – deserve equal access to healthy, toxic-free popcorn.”

PFAS or PFCs, are used for stain, water and/or grease resistance. They are not just in microwave popcorn bags but also in many household items, including furniture, carpet and carpet cleaners, textiles, floor waxes, and outdoor apparel. A 2017 study by CEH – Kicking the Can? – found that 38% of the cans tested from dollar stores contained the hazardous chemical BPA. Numerous other studies have also shown that toxic chemicals are commonly found in dollar store products (summary and report, BPA in canned food).

Jose Bravo, Coordinator of CHS, said, “Our testing found that dollar store customers and their families may be exposed to a wide array of hazardous chemicals, most of which are under-regulated by authorities. Adding to this problem, dollar stores have committed to doing almost nothing beyond their minimum legal requirements to protect people who have no other shopping options. Although there are nontoxic ways to make microwave popcorn, we found dollar store shelves full of toxic varieties and had trouble finding safe and simple popping corn.”

CEH, CHS and a broad coalition of community groups, public health advocates, environmental justice organizations, and consumers are urging Dollar Stores to adopt comprehensive, transparent hazardous chemical policies; to encourage microwave popcorn manufacturers to stop selling food products which contain hazardous chemicals; and to offer safer alternatives – like popcorn kernels – in their stores until they do.

Background Information:

Photos, resources, and video for use with articles are available upon request.

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) is a national nonprofit committed to ending health threats from toxic chemicals in our air, water, food and in products we use every day. We protect children and families from harmful chemicals by working with communities, consumers, workers, and government to demand and support safer business practices. We also work with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices.

The Campaign for Healthier Solutions is a diverse coalition of over 100 environmental justice, medical, public health, community, and women’s organizations working with discount retailers toward responsible hazardous chemical policies and better corporate citizenship.