BURGER… with a side of chemicals

Extras located in food wrappers

Fastfood+hamburger

Photo by amirali mirhashemian on Unsplash

If you enjoy eating out at fast food restaurants, you may be unaware of the extra chemicals you are paying for along with your food.

This class of chemicals that are now being studied as dangerous, are called polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS. PFAS are 4,700 chemicals that make carpets and upholstery stain-resistant and help firefighters douse burning oil and gas.

In a study published in the journal Environmental health Perspectives and reported by National Geographic in October, PFAS were shown to be linked l to cancer, thyroid disorders, weight gain, and hormonal changes.

The study used data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and called PFAS the “Forever Chemical” because they don’t break down in most bodies for either a couple years or longer, depending on how much PFAS you consume.

The PFAS are not located in the food but in the food wrappers. The CDC has done research on this chemical and have quoted it as the ‘Forever Chemical’. It has been called this because the study showed that it doesn’t break down in most bodies for either a couple years or longer based on how much PFAS you consume.

After a 24-hour period, those who had eaten fast food consistently showed an increase in the amount of PFAS in their blood. The PFAS chemical can linger for years in the human body system. In 2019, the FDA tested 91 samples of food products to look for PFAS.

The results showed that 14 of the products contained some level of PFAS. One of the foods that brought attention to Maricel Maffini , and independent researcher on chemicals with a doctorate in biological sciences, was chocolate cake with chocolate icing.

She found that the cake contained 17,640 parts per trillion of PFPeA, which is one of the many PFAS chemicals. The EPA set a health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water, although that standard doesn’t apply to food sources.

This shows that even some everyday foods and drinks like fast food, water as well as treats like cake, still contain high levels of the dangerous chemical. This means that consuming foods or drinks with high levels of PFAS on a regular basis adds more of the chemical to the system, scientists say.

“Before now I knew nothing about it but now, it sounds very harmful so I am 100 percent not for it,” said Rio Americano sophomore Sumaya Albadani regarding the chemicals effects on the human body.

Rolf Halden, a director for Arizona State University Center for Environmental Health Engineering, has studied the impact of PFAS in the Human body and said, “The study’s data shows a clear link between fast food and PFAS consumption. Seventy percent of the U.S. population is getting exposed to chemicals that cannot degrade.”

Since, the growth of the “Forever Chemical” is not only in fast food wrappers but other products used for packaging has shown a rise of the chemical in people’s bodies. Some states in the U.S. such as California, Washington, and New York are taking action to restrict the amount of PFAS that can be used in packaging production.

Although most states in the U.S. haven’t taken charge on cutting down the amount of PFAS is in wrappers. “I am super shocked that they’re [some states are] not doing anything about it and that people aren’t making it more known on social media,” said Albadani.