Is Your Long-Term Health Worth More Than A Fancy Combination Meal?
A study published Tuesday added further evidence that phthalates, called “chemicals everywhere,” are particularly abundant in fast food dishes. This chemical group of “plasticizers” can be found in just about any product on store shelves, from soaps to food and, yes, as its descriptor suggests, in plastics.
Although it is used to give various materials more flexibility – like plastic – it is also known to disrupt hormonal activity in humans and animals when exposed to high doses.
Lariah Edwards, postdoctoral researcher at George Washington University and lead author of the new study, published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental, told Gizmodo that plasticizing chemicals are “prevalent” in prepared foods and fast foods. foods in the United States – “a finding that means many consumers receive a side of potentially unhealthy chemicals with their meals,” Edwards said. “Stricter regulations are needed to help keep these harmful chemicals out of the food supply. “
Edwards’ team reviewed 64 fast food products, including cheeseburgers, fries, and burritos. Their study follows earlier work, published in 2018, which found that Americans who reported a relatively higher level of fast food consumption also had higher levels of phthalates in urine samples, compared to those who ate more home-cooked meals.
In addition to food samples, this latest study also collected pairs of food handling gloves from some of the restaurants selected for the study.
Although seemingly harmless in low-intensity exposure, these chemicals, which can interfere with natural hormonal processes, have been linked to developmental problems in children and increase their risk for asthma, obesity and fertility problems. However, researchers have not yet determined how much of these substances, called endocrine disruptors (EDCs), are considered safe in the long term.
The new research has found various phthalates in up to 81% of the foods tested – and up to 89% of other phthalate-free plasticizers, used more recently to replace conventional phthalates. Scientists warn that these next-generation plasticizers have also not been properly tested and only work to rename the now-branded phthalate.
Meat products contained the highest level of plasticizing chemicals, they found, although it was not clear whether the chemicals leached out of the plasticized product’s packaging or whether they were simply washed out. built right into the recipe for one reason or another.
Scientists warn that the potentially harmful effects of phlalates and similar chemicals place an undue burden on poorer communities, especially where fast food restaurants tend to congregate.
“More research needs to be done to find out whether people living in such food deserts” – that is, regions where fresh, whole foods are rarer – “are at greater risk of exposure to these products. harmful chemicals, ”said Ami Zota, second author of the study. professor at GWU.
The new findings come just weeks after an alarming study found that people with the highest levels of phthalates in their bodies are at greater risk of death from any cause, contributing to between 91,000 and 107,000 premature deaths each year among Americans aged 55 to 64.