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Researchers at George Washington University and the University of California at Berkley say that eating out may be a significant source of exposure to phthalates in the United States. Their new study examined the presence of the toxic, hormone-disrupting chemicals in food and found that participants who reported eating out more often had phthalate levels almost 35 percent higher than those who mostly ate their own home-cooked food.
Phthalates are used in a wide range of products from cosmetics and perfumes to toys and building materials. They can be used to make materials like plastic and vinyl softer and more flexible. Thus, plastic bags, water bottles, plastic wrap, and food packaging all contain phthalates.
The study used nearly 10 years of data from more than 10,000 people who participated in a national study. Phthalate levels were tracked using urine samples, and people were asked to remember what they had eaten the previous day. Researchers found that the link between dining out and high phthalate levels was strongest in teenagers who had eaten fast food the day before.
Because teens, children, and pregnant women are the most susceptible to the hormone-disrupting effects of phthalates, the researchers conducting the study expressed concern about limiting exposures for these groups. They presume that the toxic chemicals are leaching into food from the plastic gloves, containers, and take-home boxes being used by fast food chains.
The new study supports research done two years ago by one of the same scientists. The earlier study revealed phthalates levels were 40 percent higher in consumers whose diet consisted mainly of fast food, fries, and burgers.
Other groups at high risk for exposure to phthalates include dialysis patients, hemophiliacs and others who receive transfusions, as the medical tubing and containers may contain phthalates. Workers, painters, and printers involved in the manufacture, formulation, and processing of plastics are also at high risk.
Phthalates are considered so toxic that in 2008, Congress moved to ban their use in children’s toys. In 1999, U.S. companies stopped using them in pacifiers, soft rattles, and teethers. However, two of the compounds, DEHP and DiNP, are still in use today. In studies, these phthalates have been linked to infertility and damage to the reproductive system, including decreased sperm counts.
Researchers at GWU and the University of California plan future studies to examine ways to effectively remove phthalates from the food supply. They encourage consumers to prepare their own food at home and eat more whole foods and vegetables while avoiding highly processed foods that are sold in plastic packaging. This approach has the added benefit of reducing the amount of sugar, unhealthy fats, and salt in the average diet.
Anyone who has suffered injuries or illness from toxic chemical exposure should contact the Pennsylvania toxic tort lawyers at Williams Cedar LLC to discuss the legal remedies and compensation available to you. Call 215-557-0099 today to schedule a free consultation or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey we serve clients throughout South Jersey, Pennsylvania, and nationwide.