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What Is in Fast Food? A Newly Discovered Reason to Avoid Fast Food

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A new study shows that toxicperfluoroalkyls, which are used in surface protection treatments and coatings to keep grease from leaking through fast food wrappers, are being ingested by people through their food and showing up as contaminants in blood.

Perfluoroalkyls are a hazardous class of stable, synthetic chemicals that repel oil, grease and water.

As reported by University of Toronto researchers, the chemicals studied in human blood, urine and feces were polyfluoroalkyl phosphate esters (PAPs), which are the breakdown products of the perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs) used in coating the food wrappers. Scientists said the exposure to humans through this means "should be considered as a significant indirect source of PFCA."

That means you now have a new reason to avoid fast foods.

You may not realize it, but you and your family are continually exposed to perfluoroalkyls, which include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS). And these chemicals can be detected in nearly everyone in the U.S.!

Besides food packaging and fast food wrappers, everyday sources of this exposure include: drinking water, dust, air, carpet and fabric protectors, flame retardants, non-stick pots and pans, stain-proof clothing, and even cord blood and breast milk.

But it's not just PFOA and PFOS that show up. The CDC's Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals 2009 (considered the most comprehensive assessment of the exposure of the U.S. population to chemicals in our environment), detected a total of 12 different types of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in Americans tested.

I've written many articles about non-stick cookware, highlighting the fact that they are one of the most common sources of PFCs. But this study shows fast food wrappers are yet another pervasive source!

Three years ago, environmental chemists Scott Mabury and Jessica D'eon established that perfluorinated chemicals, specifically polyfluoroalkyl phosphate esters, known as PAPs, can and do transfer from the wrappers into food. PAPS are byproducts of PFCAs and PFOA.

According to Madbury, regulators who approved these chemicals for use with food and other products made three assumptions, which have now been proven wrong:

1. The chemicals won't migrate from paper into food.
2. The chemicals won't become available to your body.
3. Your body won't process these chemicals.

Contrary to the regulators' findings, we now know PFCs have many health dangers, including being part of a group of chemicals referred to as"gender-bending," because they can disrupt your endocrine system and sex hormones.

In animal studies, PFOA has also been associated with other health dangers such as:
  • "Significant increases in treatment related deaths" in rat offspring at doses that did not affect the mothers.
  • Serious changes in the weight of various organs, including brain, prostate, liver, thymus and kidneys.
  • Deaths of a significant number of rat pups of mothers exposed to PFOA.
  • Damage to the pituitary at all doses in female rat offspring (The pituitary secretes hormones that regulate growth, reproduction, and many metabolic processes. Change in pituitary size is associated with toxicity.)
  • Tumor development after prolonged exposure.
Other studies have linked PFC's to:
  • Thyroid disease: A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that PFOA can damage your thyroid function. Individuals with the highest PFOA concentrations were more than twice as likely to report current thyroid disease. Your thyroid contains thyroglobulin protein, which binds to iodine to form hormones, which in turn influence essentially every organ, tissue and cell in your body. Thyroid hormones are also required for growth and development in children. Left untreated, thyroid disease can lead to heart disease, infertility, muscle weakness, and osteoporosis.
  • Cancer: PFOA has been associated with tumors in at least four different organs in animal tests (liver, pancreas, testicles and mammary glands in rats), and has been associated with increases in prostate cancer in PFOA plant workers. The EPA has ruled PFCs as "likely carcinogens," and has stated that PFOA "poses developmental and reproductive risks to humans."

Immune system problems: Several studies indicate that PFCs have an adverse effect on your immune system. As described in a report on PFCs by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), PFOA was found to decrease all immune cell sub-populations studied in the thymus and spleen, and caused immuno-suppression.

  • Increased LDL cholesterol levels: A study in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine showed that children and teens with higher PFOA levels had higher levels of total cholesterol and LDL or "bad" cholesterol, while PFOs was associated with increased total cholesterol, including both LDL cholesterol and HDL or "good" cholesterol.

For more information on these studies, please review the Environmental Working Groups extensive report.

So what can you do to protect your health? I strongly recommend avoiding any product that contains these toxic compounds, particularly foods sold in grease-proof packaging, such as fast food and popcorn. Besides the toxic burden of the wrappers, I think it's also important to realize that you are not getting proper nutrition from the food that comes in them.

Most important, however, is ditching your non-stick cookware, because most brands are a MAJOR source of PFC's, particularly PFOA. The moment you heat them, they start to liberate fluoride vapors that are so toxic they will kill small birds!

Every time you cook with them, you inhale these chemicals, and the food in the pan absorbs them too, turning every home-cooked meal toxic.

To identify other products to avoid, the EWG has compiled a list of common products containing PFC's for you here.

Keep in mind that avoiding these products is especially crucial for pregnant women or couples who want to have children, since PFC's can have a serious impact on fertility, and on a baby's delicate hormonal system.

Dr. Joseph Mercola is the founder and director of Mercola.com. Become a fan of Dr. Mercola on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, and check out Dr. Mercola's report on sun exposure!

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