It’s not just the cholesterol, calories and carbohydrates in fast food that people should worry about: Burgers, pizzas and burritos are teeming with toxic “forever chemicals,” according to a new study.
George Washington University researchers ordered dozens of items from McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Taco Bell and Chipotle.
According to their analysis, they found phthalates, which are used to make plastic flexible, in more than 80 percent of the samples.
Also known as plasticizers, phthalates are used in hundreds of products, from vinyl floors and plastic packaging to soaps and shampoos.
In addition, they have been linked to numerous health problems, including cancer, liver damage, infertility, thyroid disease, asthma and even smaller testicles, as well as learning disabilities, behavioral problems and attention deficit disorders in children.
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George Washington University researchers tested menu items at McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino’s and other fast food chains for phthalates, so-called “forever chemicals” used in hundreds of household products.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Exposure is a particular risk to children, the health agency said, because children crawl around touching things and putting them in their mouths.
The researchers chose the restaurants and menu items — burgers, fries, chicken nuggets, chicken burritos and cheese pizza — based on market share and best-selling items.
Items made with meat had higher levels of phthalates, while French fries and cheese pizza had the lowest, according to their findings, published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.
They found that 81 percent of the items tested contained a phthalate called DnBP, which has been linked to an increased risk of asthma, and 70 percent contained DEHP, which is linked to reduced fertility and other reproductive problems.
Of the food they ordered, 81 percent contained a phthalate called DnBP, which has been linked to an increased risk of asthma, and 70 percent contained DEHP, which has been linked to reduced fertility and other reproductive problems.
As concerns about phthalates mount, alternative plasticizers have been developed, and the scientists found one such alternative, called DEHT, in 86 percent of junk foods.
The full health impact of these alternative plasticizers is not yet known, the researchers said.
The burgers, McNuggets and milkshakes could have come into contact with phthalates and substitute plasticizers anywhere in the food supply chain, the researchers said, from processing and packaging equipment to the plastic gloves worn by workers.
Items made with meat had higher levels of phthalates, while fries and cheese pizza had the lowest, according to the study
Pictured: Chemical formula and molecular model for a phthalate. Certain phthalates have been linked to cancer, liver damage, infertility, thyroid disease and asthma
Co-author Ami Zota, a professor of environmental health at GWU, said the study raises concerns that low-income and people of color are being disproportionately exposed to phthalates.
“Benten in deprived areas often have many fast food restaurants, but limited access to healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables,” Zota said. The Washington Post. “Additional research needs to be done to find out whether people living in such food deserts are at a higher risk of exposure to these harmful chemicals.”
AN CDC Report 2019 found non-Latino blacks have higher levels of exposure to various phthalates and phthalate alternatives than whites.
It also indicated that adult women recorded higher levels of plasticizers used in soaps, shampoos, cosmetics and other personal care products across the board than men.
The FDA does not set limits for phthalates in food, according to the Post, but the levels detected in the 64 fast food products purchased from franchises around San Antonio, Texas, were all below EPA’s current acceptable thresholds.
Still, the FDA told the Post it would review George Washington’s study and consider its findings.
“While the FDA has high safety standards, we are re-evaluating our safety assessments as new scientific information becomes available,” an agency spokesperson said.
“If new information raises safety concerns, the FDA may withdraw approvals for food additives if the FDA can no longer conclude that there is reasonable assurance that the permitted uses will not cause harm.”
The EPA said it was moving to forever regulate certain chemicals — known as Per- and polyfluoroalkyls, or PFAS — in U.S. drinking water after they repeatedly appeared in water reservoirs across the country.
Last week, the EPA said it was in motion to regulate certain chemicals forever — known as Per- and polyfluoroalkyls, or PFAS — in U.S. drinking water after they repeatedly appeared in water supplies across the country.
The agency said it would also designate some as hazardous chemicals.
PFAs are used to make cookware, rain gear, carpet and other items water and stain resistant, but have also been linked to health problems, including higher cholesterol, an increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer, and damage to the immune system, as well as birth defects, smaller birth weight and reduced vaccine response in children.
EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan (pictured) said the agency was on the move to forever regulate chemicals called PFAS, which are used to make items water- and stain-resistant, but also have higher cholesterol, an increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer and damage to the immune system
“For far too long, families across America — especially those in underserved communities — have suffered from PFAS in their water, their air, or the land their children play on,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a statement.
“This comprehensive, national PFAS strategy will protect people who are injured by taking bold and concrete actions that address the full life cycle of these chemicals. Let there be no doubt that EPA is listening, we’re behind you and we’re focused on protecting people from pollution and engaging polluters.”
WHAT ARE FOREVER CHEMICALIN?
‘Forever chemicals’ are a class of common industrial compounds that do not break down when released into the environment.
Humans are exposed to these chemicals after coming into contact with food, soil or water reservoirs.
These chemicals – more commonly known as per- and polyfluoroalkyls or PFAS – are added to cookware, carpets, textiles and other items to make them water and stain resistant.
PFAS contamination has been detected in water near manufacturing facilities, as well as at military bases and firefighting training facilities where flame retardant foam is used.
The chemicals have been linked to an increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer and damage to the immune system, as well as birth defects, smaller birth weight and reduced vaccine response in children.