Fast Food May Expose Consumers to Harmful Chemicals

The Milken Institute of Of Public Health at George Washington University conducted research which shows that people who consume more fast food are exposed to a higher level of the harmful chemical known as phthalates. They are some of the first researches to look at the correlation between fast food and exposure to these chemicals. Their findings appear in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. 

They found that people who ate the most amount of fast food has levels of phthalate that were as much as 40% higher than other people. The researches are concerned because phthalates are linked to a number of serious health problems in adults and children. Phthalates belong to a class of industrial chemicals that are used to make food packaging materials.The research was conducted by asking participants to filled out a detailed survey on their diet in the past 24 hours. They also provided a urine sample that researches would test for the breakdown of products of phthalates.

The researchers also discovered that grain and meat items were the most significant contributors to phthalate exposure. The grain category contained a wide variety of items including bread, cake, pizza, burritos, rice dishes and noodles.

In addition, the researchers also looked for exposure to another chemical found in plastic food packaging–BPA. Researchers also believe exposure to BPA can lead to health and behavior problems, especially for young children. This study found no association between total fast food intake and BPA. However, Zota and her colleagues found that people who ate fast food meat products had higher levels of BPA than people who reported no fast food consumption.

This study fits into a bigger field of ongoing research showing that phthalates are in a wide variety of personal products, toys, perfume and even food. In 2008 Congress banned the use of phthalates in the production of children’s toys because of concerns about the health impact of these chemicals.

But Zota notes that DEHP and DiNP are two phthalates still in use despite concerns that they leach out of products and get into the human body. Studies of the health impact of exposure to these chemicals have suggested they can damage the reproductive system and they may lead to infertility.


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