New research published in the journal Nature adds to the growing body of scientific research showing that many common fast-food items we routinely consume are contaminated with plasticizers -- a particular type of man-made, phthalate chemical added to plastics to make them softer, sturdier and more flexible. Scientists at George Washington University’s school of public health discovered the presence of ortho-phalates – highly toxic phthalates that have been restricted from use in the U.S. – along with the newer plasticizers intended to replace ortho-phlates in everything from hamburgers and fries to chicken nuggets and cheese pizza at a number of popular fast-food chains. Phthalate contamination of these food products comes from being processed, packaged, and repackaged in cheap, plastic containers, multiple times before they reach the mouth, creating the opportunity for additive exposure. In fact, fast food has so many encounters with plastic, including the plastic gloves worn by workers assembling meals, that it is difficult to identify a single source. Nevertheless, scientists have long correlated an increased consumption of fast food with a higher concentration of plasticizers in the body.
Restaurants sampled in the study included McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Taco Bell and Chipotle. Researchers tested for 11 kinds of plasticizers including two ortho-phthalates linked to reproductive health problems. Researchers found one of these ortho-phthalates in 81 percent of foods sampled and the other in 70 percent of items. Replacement phthalate DEHT was found in 86 percent of the food items tested, although not all foods were tested for DEHT. Foods that contain meat, like chicken burritos and cheeseburgers, were generally shown to have higher concentrations of these phthalates and replacement plasticizes.
Pthalates, and ortho-phthalates in particular, can wreak havoc on a number of our bodily systems including our reproductive and cardiovascular systems. These chemicals can cause everything from cancer, to infertility to premature death. Reducing exposure to phthalates is in everyone’s best interests and findings of this study included one that showed people who consumed most of their meals at home had lower phthalates levels than those that ate more often at a cafeteria or restaurant. Phthalates are everywhere in our environment and studies like this help us understand the greatest sources and ways we can best minimize our exposure. If you have been injured by exposure to phthalates, you should contact an experienced law firm right away to explore you rights.