Fast Food Serves Up Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals

Fast Food Serves Up Hormone-Disrupting ChemicalsFast Food Serves Up Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals

A new study finds that drive-thru fast food hamburgers and take-out pizzas could increase one’s exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates.

Researchers looked at the relationship between how much fast food people consume and the level of phthalates in their urine.

The data collected by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 2003 and 2010 was part of nationwide surveys on health and nutrition that included more than 8,877 children and adults, CNN reported.

About one-third of the participants in the study said they had eaten fast food in the last 24 hours. Those who consumed a lot of fast food during that time, meaning that at least 35% of their calories came from fast food, had 23.8% and 39% higher levels of two phthalates called DEHP and DiNP, respectively, compared with participants who did not report having any fast food. Those who ate fast food but it made up fewer than 35% of their calories -- had 15.5% and 24.8% increases in DEHP and DiNP.

“There are increasing recommendations from scientific bodies suggesting the general population and vulnerable populations like pregnant women reduce their exposure to phthalates, but up to now there have been very few sources that people can have control of,” said Ami R. Zota, lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Research has linked these chemicals with increased risk of fibroids and endometriosis, which can cause infertility, and reduced IQ and behavioral problems in children exposed in the womb. High phthalate levels have also been linked with diabetes risk in women and adolescents.

There are countless ways that people can be exposed to phthalates. They are found in soaps, perfumes, nail polish, medications, and we can ingest, inhale and absorb them through the skin.

However, food can be a major source of phthalates because packaging materials and equipment used in food processing such as conveyor belts and tubing contains phthalates, and these chemicals can leach into food.

“This study shows that fast food may be an especially important source of phthalate exposure,” said Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program.