Quantcast

Would You Like Some Phthalates With Your Sandwich?

Food
Many varieties of vinyl gloves also contain phthalates, which leak into food and the human body.

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.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Environmental Health News.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

"It would be great to see all the candidates join Elizabeth Warren in taking the No Big Ag Money Pledge," said Citizens Regeneration Lobby's Alexis Baden-Mayer. Peter Blanchard / Flickr / ric (CC BY 2.0)

By Andrea Germanos

Food system justice and environmental advocates on Wednesday urged all Democratic presidential hopefuls to follow in the footsteps of Sen. Elizabeth Warren in signing a pledge rejecting campaign cash from food and agribusiness corporations.

Read More
A new study shows the impact Native Americans had on landscapes was "small" compared to what followed by Europeans. The findings provide important takeaway for conservation in New England today, seen above in a view of areas surrounding Rangeley Lakes in Maine. Cappi Thompson / Moment / Getty Images

There's a theory going around that Native Americans actively managed the land the lived on, using controlled burns to clear forests. It turns out that theory is wrong. New research shows that Native Americans barely altered the landscape at all. It was the Europeans who did that, as ZME Science reported.

Read More
Sponsored
Loggers operate in an area of lodgepole pine trees killed by the mountain pine beetle in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest on Sept. 13, 2019 in Montana. As climate change makes summers hotter and drier in the Northern Rockies, forests are threatened with increasing wildfire activity, deadly pathogens and insect infestations, including the mountain pine beetle outbreak. The insects have killed more than six million acres of forest across Montana since 2000. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President Donald Trump told a crowd at the Davos World Economic Forum Tuesday that the U.S. will join the Forum's 1t.org initiative to restore and conserve one trillion trees around the world, according to The Hill.

Read More
Wild rice flatbread is one of many Native recipes found in Indigikitchen. Indigikitchen

The online cooking show Indigikitchen is providing a platform to help disseminate Indigenous food recipes — while helping eaters recognize their impact on the planet and Native communities.

Read More

On the Solomon Islands, rats and poachers are the two major threats to critically endangered sea turtles. A group of local women have joined forces to help save the animals from extinction.

Read More