While you certainly know that eating fast food is bad for you, chances are that you aren’t aware of the extent to which it can harm your body. Previous research has found that consuming too much fast food causes obesity, which later results in obesity-related health problems, but a new study has pointed out that fast food actually contains harmful chemicals. Bloomberg reports that the research found proof that fast food is packed with industrial chemicals that are called phthalates.
The worst part is that these phthalates are used in the manufacture of plastic and vinyl. To be more precise, plastic and vinyl are flexible and durable thanks to phthalates. Moreover, you can find these chemicals in a number of widely used products, including soap, cosmetics, food packaging, luggage, and even window blinds and car interiors.
It seems that the reason fast food contains phthalates is that it’s highly processed. On top of it, people wearing gloves handle the food and later place it in packages. All of this contributes to high phthalate exposure, according to CNN.
Now, here comes the scariest part. Although scientists still don’t know how these chemicals affect human health, research on rats has discovered that phthalate exposure is linked to male infertility. In other words, it could have a negative impact on human infertility.
Studies are currently concerned with the effect phthalates have on pregnant women and children. As a matter of fact, things are so serious that several governments have made significant efforts to reduce the amount of these chemicals in fast food. For instance, workers in Japan are no longer allowed to use vinyl gloves. Also, the European Union is taking a few steps to reduce the levels of phthalates in food and toys.
As for some initial results, the latest study that examined the connection between the amounts of fast food individuals ate and the level of phthalates in their urine, used information from a CDC survey gathered between 2003 and 2010. Almost 9,000 people took part in the survey, children included. Now, those individuals that took in 35 percent or more of their daily calories from fast food in the previous 24 hours had high levels of two phthalates, DEHP and DiNP.
Both the National Restaurant Association and the American Chemical Council are looking into the results of the study, but it appears that they are not too concerned with the data. The organizations said that the levels of phthalates measured by the study were below the legal requirements set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The study’s author Ami Zota, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University, told the Washington post that their goal is not to frighten people or create paranoia but added that the ‘findings are alarming.’
She later said that it would be better to refer to the results as ‘striking’ instead of ‘alarming.’ Whatever word you decided to use, it’s certain that the findings are not good.
Zota explained that foods that are overly processed will most likely contain higher levels of phthalates. Basically, fast foods get in contact with machines, plastic and other processing equipment, meaning that they are exposed to phthalates during every stage of the manufacturing process.
Zota hopes that this study will ‘raise public awareness about the exposure problems associated with our industrialized food system.’
Now, we’re not saying that everyone will ignore the study, but the problem is much bigger than just fast foods. Even if you don’t eat fast foods and pay attention to your diet, you can still be exposed to phthalates. Essentially, all foods that go through processing and industrial packaging can contain these harmful chemicals, the Washington Post reports.
Leo Trasande, an associate professor of pediatrics, environmental medicine and population health at New York University, told Bloomberg that ‘it’s not fair’ to say that you’ll only be exposed to phthalates if you consume unhealthy foods. And he’s right, things are much worse than that.