Food

Phthalates in food packaging

Eating at restaurants and fast food chains may increase exposure to protentially harmful hormone-disrupting chemicals used to increase the flexibility and durability of plastic, a study has found. Researchers in investigating levels of phthalates in the human body, which have been linked to asthma, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes and fertility issues in the past few years, were found to be eaten out the previous day compared with those who stayed at home. Phthalates are binding agents frequently used in food packaging as well as a number of other products including flooring, adhesives soaps and shampoos, and some forms of the chemical have been banned from children’s products. Certain foods, including burgers and sandwiches, were linked to higher phthalate levels in the study, but only if purchased at a fast-food outlet, restaurant or cafe. The association was especially strong for teenagers, researchers found. Adolesecnts who frequently ate at fast-food outlets while out with their friends had 55 percent higher levels of the chemicals than young people eating at home. The findings suggest that dining out may be an important, and previously under-recognised, source of exposure to phthalates for people. Pregnant women, children and teens are more vulnerable to the toxic effects of hormone-disrupting chemicals, so it’s important to find ways to limit their exposures.

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