What A Recent Study Revealed About Plastics In Fast Food

You may have heard some talk in recent years about the dangers that a group of chemicals known as phthalates may pose to humans. Phthalates are found in myriad consumer products, from vinyl flooring to soaps, and they are sometimes called "plasticizers" because they're often used to make plastics more durable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Concerns about phthalates are related to the fact that they can enter the body through foods, cosmetics, and other items that have the chemicals in their packaging.

What remains uncertain to scientists is whether — and to what extent — exposure to low levels of phthalates can harm human health, as well as what constitutes "low levels" of the chemicals. Further, experts are still studying just how well food products are able to absorb phthalates not only from phthalate-containing packaging, but also from exposure to manufacturing tools, plastic safety gloves, and other phthalates along the supply chain. A recent study published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, however, suggests that there may be cause for concern about the level of plasticizers found in fast food.

The study confirms the presence of plastics in many fast food favorites

The Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology study found that your favorite fast food is more likely to contain phthalates than not. Scientists from George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health obtained 64 food samples from various fast food restaurants and analyzed them for 11 chemicals. They discovered that 81% of such samples tested positive for the presence of at least one type of phthalate, most likely as a result of having been exposed to plastic components in the supply chain, such as gloves. "Widespread phthalate exposure, including potential contamination of the food supply, is concerning for human health," the study reads.

The scientists collected samples from burgers, fries, chicken nuggets, and other popular foods from chains including McDonald's, Pizza Hut, and Chipotle, reports The Washington Post. The study goes on to say that while food is a known and common source of exposure to phthalates, there has been very little research on plasticizer concentrations in fast food, a major part of the American diet. While more research is needed to determine the full impact of low levels of phthalates on human health, the findings show that plasticizers are "abundant" in fast food meals. If the results of the study are confirmed, they may be able to "inform individual, market-based, and regulatory exposure reduction strategies" for the public.