A recent survey revealed that people who claimed to eat more fast food also had possible exposure of higher levels of phthalates.

Is that bad? In 2016, when all chemicals are scary, it certainly is, and environmental groups have raised a fortune claiming such chemicals "leach" out of containers and into food. The television show "60 Minutes", which has long promoted health scares, did a story on them and ever since groups like Natural Resources Defense Council (which manufactured one prominent scare, alar on apples, with the left-wing public relations company Fenton Communications) have claimed all kinds of effects using rat studies.

A paper in Environmental Health Perspectives seeks to raise the alarm on phthalates once again, by invoking another scary topic to the kind of people who cite EHP - processed food. 
In 2008 Congress banned the use of phthalates in the production of children's toys because of parental concerns about the health impact of these chemicals.

"People who ate the most fast food had phthalate levels that were as much as 40 percent higher," says lead author Ami Zota, ScD, MS, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. Zota and her colleagues looked at data on 8,877 participants who had answered detailed questions about their diet in the past 24 hours, including consumption of fast food. These participants also had provided researchers with a urinary sample that could be tested for the breakdown products of two specific phthalates--DEHP and DiNP.

Zota and her colleagues found that the more fast food participants in the study ate the higher the exposure to phthalates. People in the study with the highest consumption of fast food had 23.8 percent higher levels of the breakdown product for DEHP in their urine sample. And those same fast food lovers had nearly 40 percent higher levels of DiNP metabolites in their urine compared to people who reported no fast food in the 24 hours prior to the testing.

So? Well, there is no so. A chemical must be bad. Of course, everything we eat is chemicals.


A new study suggests fast food may expose consumers to phthalates. Credit: Matthew Golden/ Milken Institute School of Public Health

The researchers also found that grain and meat items were the most significant contributors to this phthalate exposure. Zota says the grain category contained a wide variety of items including bread, cake, pizza, burritos, rice dishes and noodles. 

In addition, the researchers also looked for exposure to another chemical found in plastic food packaging, Bisphenol A or BPA, but found no association between total fast food intake and BPA. However, Zota and her colleagues found that people who ate fast food meat products had higher levels of BPA than people who reported no fast food consumption, so if BPA is bad, then so is junk food.

Zota notes that DEHP and DiNP are two phthalates still in use despite concerns that they leach out of products and get into the human body. Some claim they can damage the reproductive system and they may lead to infertility.