Fast Food Consumption May Increase Exposure to Industrial Chemicals

Apr 28, 2016

It’s no secret that fast food is probably not the best choice if you’re concerned about fat, salt or the origins of the meat or dairy products. If that weren’t enough, new research shows you may be ingesting more than your recommended daily allowance of hormone disruptors, along with your side of fries.

A new study published by Environmental Health Perspectives found people who frequently eat fast food have nearly 40% more phthalates in their blood than those who eat less or no fast food. So what are phthalates? 

"Phthalates are a class of industrial chemicals. So this class consists of many different types of chemicals that have different properties. A lot of the phthalates that are used today in commerce are added to plastics to help make them soft," says Ami Zota, lead author of the study. "These types of plastics can be found in food packaging material, different types of tubing used in the medical industry, as well as the medical supply." 

Almost all Americans have some industrial chemicals inside of them, even though they do not occur naturally in the human body. So why should we be concerned? Phthalates exposure has been linked to cancer and infertility. They may also pose a risk to pregnant women and young children.  

"There are multiple regulatory and scientific bodies that have expressed concern about phthalate exposure among the general population," says Zota. "...Many of these phthalates are banned in the European Union in food contact materials, cosmetics, as well as children's toys."

Still in the U.S., the use of phthalates is generally unregulated. The only federal regulations regarding phthalates require toy manufacturers to list their use on the label.