Would You Like Some Phthalates With Your Sandwich?
By Brian Bienkowski
Don't feel like cooking tonight? A new study may change your mind.
In a study of more than 10,000 people in the U.S., researchers found that people who frequently eat out at restaurants, cafeterias and fast food joints have phthalate levels about 35 percent higher than people who mostly eat food bought at a grocery store and prepared at home.
"What you eat is important, but this shows where it's purchased is also important," said senior author Ami Zota, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.
The study didn't determine why there was increased chemical exposure for people who ate out. However, the chemicals can leach from certain food packages, as well as industrial food processing equipment and gloves used in preparing food, Zota said.
Phthalates—used widely in vinyl flooring, cosmetics, detergents, lubricants and food packages—are endocrine disrupting chemicals, meaning they alter the proper functioning of people's hormones. The chemicals have been linked to multiple health problems, including birth and reproduction problems, diseases, impaired brain development, diabetes and cancer.
Despite these health concerns, the chemicals are ubiquitous: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates more than 470 million pounds of phthalates are produced each year, and most people have some levels of the compounds in their bodies.
The study, published Thursday in the Environment International journal, suggests people can reduce that load, however, by cooking more meals at home. An estimated two-thirds of people in the U.S. eat some food outside their house every day.
In this study, 61 percent of people reported eating out the day before.
"There's a win-win message here," Zota said. Cooking meals at home can reduce sugar, unhealthy fats and salt—and also harmful chemicals such as phthalates, she said.
Zota and colleagues used information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2005 to 2014. They asked 10,253 people about what they ate in the previous 24 hours and checked their urine for signs of phthalates.
The chemicals halve in the body every 12 to 24 hours, Zota said, so urine samples are a good snapshot of short-term behavior and would reflect the past 24 hours of exposure.
The link between eating out and phthalates was true for all age groups, but it was strongest among adolescents (aged 12-19): teens who frequently ate out had 55 percent higher phthalate levels than those who ate at home.
Teens—along with pregnant women and children—are also more vulnerable to the toxic effects of hormone-disrupting chemicals, so it's "important to find ways to limit their exposures," said lead author Julia Varshavsky a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.
Varhavsky and Zota also found certain foods—such as cheeseburgers and sandwiches bought at restaurants, fast food joints or a cafeteria—seem to spur higher phthalate levels.
People who bought a sandwich out had roughly 30 percent higher phthalate levels.
Previous studies have linked fast food to higher phthalates exposure, but this is the first to take a broad look at fast food as well as cafeterias and restaurants.
The National Restaurant Association would not comment on the study or the broader issue of phthalates leaching into food.
Toxic Industrial Chemicals Found in 10 Types of Macaroni and Cheese Powders https://t.co/KorVSZ6kiA @Earthjustice @ewg @NonGMOProject @NRDC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1499965784.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Environmental Health News.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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