a bag of crispy french fries, fast food

Americans are beginning to recognize the hazards of fast food, but they might not realize that the packaging could also pose problems.

What’s in the Wrapper?

A new study analyzed fluorinated compounds in more than 400 samples of paper food wrappers, paperboard containers and paper cups. They were collected from more than two dozen fast food chains.

The scientists were looking for the fluorinated chemicals called PFASs. Previous studies have associated such compounds with health problems from cancer and fertility problems to thyroid dysfunction and lowered immunity.

The Envelope, Please:

The analysis detected fluorine in half of the paper food wrappers for burgers and pastry. One-fifth of the paper boxes for pizza and fries also contained fluorine. One bright spot: no paper cups contained fluorine. Samples high in fluorine were often high in PFASs as well. These compounds persist for years in the environment and have been found contaminating drinking water.

Schaider et al, Environmental Science & Technology Letters, Feb. 1, 2017

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  1. Clayton
    Lexington, NC

    I agree that some precautions are necessary to protect your health and I preach to people about the use of tobacco, more than one alcoholic drink, illegal drugs, soft drinks, diet drinks, corn, limit foods like hot dogs & bacon and diet miracles that promises you will lose 10 pounds per day. Other than that, don’t worry about it. If you worry about everything having a possible health hazard, you will worry yourself into an early grave, just from the worry. Be more wary about touching door knobs in eating joints and Dr offices. Other than that, just live. Don’t worry about it.

  2. Cindy M. B.
    Seattle, WA

    I agree with the other commenters who are having trouble reacting to this information because they don’t know what fluorine is or specifically how it can hurt us. I don’t ever eat “fast food” because it’s fattening and non-nutrient-dense. But I must admit I DO eat about 9 “all-natural” potato chips most nights. I wonder about the lining in that potato-chip bag…

    I’m also kinda irritated about all the conflicting information about plastics out there. I have read, on very reputable sites, that the more rigid plastic bottles like, e.g., Gatorade comes in, are much safer than the thin and pliable plastic bottles, like a gallon of water would come in. I’ve also read that hot liquids, or especially anything that’s got lots of oil in it, leaches MANY more polymer molecules into the food or drink than, say, just plain water. I’ve also heard, of course, about the dangers of polyvinyl chloride, foam rubber and other polymers that “off-gas” bad stuff into the air. But at what rate? How dangerous is this, and how does one tell if one has sustained any such damage? There seem to be very few details re such questions.

    I take things very literally, and I can’t seem to get very excited about taking any information face value if I can’t process the argument logically and agree with the conclusion based on the particulars.

  3. Ellen

    And how much exposure are fast food industry workers getting? It’s a crime.

  4. Anne

    How depressing. It seems like everything we’re exposed to has something bad associated with it. I try to take care of myself, but we’re living in a minefield!

  5. Kay
    Superior, WI

    In my city there are only PVC bathtub mats for sale. There are no natural materials i.e. rubber for sale. I wonder if the mechanism that delivers through the feet to the system can then put polyvinyl chloride into the system–including the bodies of children because some of these mats are sold decorated in bright child friendly patterns.

  6. Robert

    OK, but what is fluorine and why is it used in these products?

  7. Marian

    So, tell us please why they use these chemicals and what the alternatives might be. Surely there are some presently in use? Are there any innocents among the fast food purveyors??

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