Fast food packaging may increase your exposure to toxic ‘forever chemical’ PFAS

We’ve been told over and again that fast foods are not good for us because of the calories and additives, but now a study has found that the wrappings and packaging of fast foods contain a toxic chemical called PFAS.

This toxic chemical PFAS, also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, belongs to a group of chemicals that is used in abundance in many household products to make them water or fire resistant. PFAS is also nicknamed a ‘forever chemical’ because the compounds in it are notorious for their inability to breakdown and can remain in the body for months unlike other contaminants that exit the body in a few hours.

PFAS is found not only in fast food packaging but also in paint, carpeting, and clothing. A 2017 study found it in sandwich and burger wrappers but also in the stiff paperboard boxes for french fries. The chemical is added to make food more portable because it resists water and grease.

For the time being, although the recent study has found PFAS in the blood of tested individuals it is not clear as to the definite effects it does have on humans.  Tests and studies have been done on animals that were exposed to PFAS which show consistent results in damage to their liver, kidneys, and immune system with tumors to be common and signs of cancer and thyroid disruption. 

Researchers used data from the Centers for the Prevention of Disease and Control (CDC)’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHNES), which is comprehensive and maintained regularly, to look at PFAS blood samples that had been collected from more than 10,000 people from the years 2003 to 2014.

At least 70% of the people surveyed had blood samples that were found to contain five commonly used types of PFAS. The survey had also asked people how often they had eaten fast food within 24 hours, a week, and a month.

People who had eaten fast food within 24 hours showed an increase in PFAS in their blood. Because PFAS does not pass through the human body quickly, it can linger for months even years if eaten on a regular basis and add PFAS cumulatively to the body’s system.

According to the study, researchers say it remains unclear as to when PFAS can begin to take a toll on the human body, but other studies have linked it to cancer, thyroid disorders, hormonal changes and weight gain.