I certainly don’t need to tell you that fast food isn’t good for you or your family. But what if I told you that your kids are downing a dose of fire-fighting chemicals along with their Happy Meals?
I know it sounds outrageous, but let me explain.
Have you ever wondered why the grease from your fast-food burger runs down your arms when you bite into it but doesn’t seep through the paper it’s wrapped in? Or how the “butter” on your microwave popcorn doesn’t just leak right through the sides of the bag?
Well, it turns out that the answer is synthetic chemicals called perfluoroalkyls (PFOA).
Perfluoroalkyls… the same chemicals used in fire-fighting foams and to protect carpets… are being used in fast-food packaging to repel the oils and grease from leaking through. (If you recall, these are the same chemicals I’ve I warned you about before when I wrote about the dangers of Teflon coating.)
Creepy PFOA chemicals are leaching into our food
Now, according to a new study published this month in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, we need to start worrying about a lot more than just the bad fats and preservatives in a fast-food meal. The researchers found that the perfluoroalkyls in the fast-food wrappers are leaching out of the food packaging, migrating into our food, and then ultimately finding their way into our bloodstreams.
But fast-food packaging isn’t our only exposure to the chemicals. We are also inhaling perfluoroalkyls from the air and absorbing them through skin contact. In fact, the CDC confirms that these chemicals can be found in the blood of most U.S. citizens (not to mention in just about every animal tested from the polar bears in Greenland to the giant pandas in China.)
While it’s not yet totally clear what these foreign invaders are doing to our health in the long term, we do already know that they affect cholesterol levels and cause changes in sex hormones.
PFOA has been linked to cancer
In addition, although more research is needed to cement the connection, perfluoroalkyls have also been implicated in cancers of the prostate and bladder. And in animal studies, the chemicals have been shown to adversely affect the liver.
To make matters worse it turns out that perfluoroalkyls are downright tenacious. Once they find their way into our bloodstreams they make themselves comfortable, moving in and staying there for years. In fact, it takes four years for their levels to go down by just a half!
And that is, of course, only if you haven’t had any exposure to them in the meantime (a virtual impossibility since they’re in so many products we come into contact with every day…from carpets, to clothing, to cardboard containers).
So the obvious question, of course, is what we can do about it.
Well, I’m not going to sugarcoat this one. It’s virtually impossible to avoid all contact with these chemicals. They are in too many of the products that we come into contact with every day.
So, while you should remove as many known sources of exposure from your life as you reasonably can—such as Teflon-coated pans, fast food, and microwave popcorn—the most important thing you can do to combat perfluoroalkyls is support organizations like the Environmental Working Group that are working to get tough regulations on these dangerous chemicals passed.