Here’s one more reason to avoid fast food: Even if the beef or chicken you eat is raised organically, with no GMOs, your meal could still carry chemicals associated with reproductive abnormalities and cancer. How so? Plastic packaging, like that used to contain burgers and fries, often contains ingredients that can literally seep into your food and thus into your body.
To prove the point, researchers asked more than 8,800 people between 2003 and 2010 to record all the food they consumed within a 24-hour period. Urine samples revealed alarmingly high amounts of phthalates—industrial chemicals—in consumers who eat fast food 35 percent or more of the time.
Specifically—and bear with me as we get technical—the study looked for three types of traces in the samples: di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), diisononyl phthalate (DiNP), and bisphenol A (BPA). Fast-food-loving subjects had 24 percent more DEHP than the average consumer and 40% more DiNP, but the BPA numbers were statistically irrelevant.
These results were recently reported in the journal Environmental Health Perspective. Do the numbers prove that the plastics we eat cause cancer or mess with our hormones? Not really. What’s more, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) has long maintained that plastic containers are more helpful than harmful—and that the amount of chemical seepage in real-world cases does not come close to being potentially cancerous. But there’s a hazy confusion because the study measured DEHP and the ACC refers only to DEHA (di(2-ethylhexyl) adipate).
If these plastics do prove to be hazardous, the problem is enormous: More than 30 percent of children eat fast food on any given day, according to the United States Healthful Food Council. And, here’s one final frightening thought to consider: Plastic gloves and conveyer belts may also be sources of carcinogens.