A few weeks ago researchers reported that many packaged mac and cheese products contained detectable levels of the endocrine-disrupting chemicals called phthalates. These compounds are generally used in cosmetics, toys, plastics and food packaging. Exposure is very widespread, but scientists have wondered how phthalates affect hormones.
Phthalates in Fast Food?
Macaroni and cheese has phthalates in it because the compounds move from packaging into cheese powder. Now, Senator Charles Schumer is asking the FDA to investigate fast food packaging to find out whether the chemicals leach into food. Regular fast-food consumers tend to have more phthalates in their urine, suggesting that the packaging materials could be giving off hormone-disrupting chemicals into the food.
How Do Phthalates Affect Hormones?
Phthalates in cosmetics, detergent and toys as well as fast-food packaging may be affecting children’s thyroid hormone levels. The influence on thyroid function remains unknown.
Studying Phthalate Exposure and Children’s Thyroid Hormones:
Researchers collected urine from inner-city pregnant mothers and their children. They tested these urine samples for several different phthalate compounds.
Thyroid Function Assessment:
The scientists also assessed the children’s thyroid function when they reached three years of age. Little girls who had high levels of phthalates in their urine had lower levels of free levothyroxine in their bloodstream. That is the primary thyroid hormone that circulates in the bloodstream.
There was some indication that the mother’s level of phthalates during pregnancy also had an effect on their children’s thyroid hormone levels. That link was not as clear and will need to be studied further.