McDonald’s and Burger King are now being sued because their food packaging has “forever chemicals” that can lead to an increased risk of cancer along with other adverse health effects.

Last month, Consumer Reports found traces of forever chemicals — known as PFAS or Polyfluoroalkyl substances — in various food packaging in major fast food chains and grocery stores. According to the EPA and its various scientifically peer-reviewed studies, high levels of PFAS exposure can lead to decreased fertility in women, development delays in children, increased risk of cancer, and reduced ability of the body's immune system. In the report, the packaging of 3 Burger King items and 4 McDonald’s items contained 100ppm or more of PFAS.

This news is no surprise: a 2019 report by The Counter found that all compostable bowls (the kind used at Chipotle or Sweetgreen) contained PFAS chemicals. In 2021, McDonald’s promised to phase out various chemicals (including PFAS) from their packaging by 2025. According to Food & Wine, Burger King’s owner, Restaurant Brands International, didn’t announce a formal commitment to removing PFAS by 2025 until last month.

Yet, fast food customers are suing now, three years before the due date, claiming that these fast food companies have been using toxic chemicals and causing potential damage to consumers. One example includes a PFA named “Scotchban FC-807” added to McDonald’s paper bags to prevent grease leakage.

The McDonald’s lawsuit, filed on March 28 in Illinois federal court, addresses the packaging of their Big Mac, Chicken McNuggets, cookies and french fries that were all found to contain PFAS. The lawsuit argues that McDonald’s has allegedly been distributing these harmful chemicals via packaging or wrappers for many years, having only recently addressed it in 2021. The Burger King lawsuit, filed on April 11 in California federal court, is focused on the PFAS present in their Whopper packaging.

Other than directly affecting the health of consumers, these forever chemicals join the usual mound of waste from restaurants and grocery stores and never biodegrade naturally in the environment, according to The Counter