Most American Fast Food Wrappers Contain Harmful Fluorinated Chemicals

1995

Perfluorinated Chemicals in Food Wrappers

A new study revealed an extensive use of fluorinated chemicals in food wrappers by some popular fast food chains in the United States.

These perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are the same chemicals used in stain-resistant products, firefighting materials and nonstick cookware. Sadly, they are not good for the health of consumers.

The study revealed that out of the 400 sample food wrappers taken from 27 fast food chains, 56 percent of dessert and bread wrappers, 38 percent of sandwich and burger wrappers and 20 percent of paperboard contained these harmful chemicals.

In addition, CNN reports fluorinated chemicals are evident in one-third of the fast food packaging researchers tested.

The study was headed by Graham Peaslee, a professor of experimental nuclear physics in the College of Science at the University of Notre Dame.

This study was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Fast food wrappers contain harmful fluorinated chemicals.
Potato fries in fast food box.

The Dangers of Perfluorinated Chemicals

Studies have shown the dangers of these chemicals. PFCs can migrate, contaminating the food and, when consumed, accumulate in the body.

Graham Peaslee said, “This is a really persistent chemical. It gets in the bloodstream, it stays there and accumulates. There are diseases that correlate to it, so we really don’t want this class of chemicals out there.”

Aside from that, fluorinated chemicals are linked to cancer including kidney and testicular cancers, thyroid disease, developmental toxicity, low birth weight and immunotoxicity in children, among other health issues.

The Study

The researchers tested more than 400 samples of packaging materials including hamburger and sandwich wrappers, pastry bags, beverage cups and French fry containers, and found evidence of fluorinated compounds called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs).

Samples were collected from a total of 27 fast food restaurant including McDonald’s, Burger King, Chipotle, Starbucks, Jimmy Johns, Panera and Chick-Fil-A, in and around Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

For a precise measurement of fluorine content of each piece of packaging, Peaslee used a novel specialized method called particle-induced gamma-ray emission (PIGE). The method is an efficient and cost-effective way to measure the presence of chemicals like fluorine in solid samples.

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