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Researchers find chemicals in fast food packaging sometimes leach into your food

NASHVILLE, Tenn.--A report published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology Letters on Wednesday found wrappers and other materials used to package fast foods could be leaching chemicals into the food you eat.

The report titled Fluorinated Compounds in U.S. Fast Food Packaging states researchers tested 400 samples of food contact papers, paperboard containers (fries, pizza boxes, etc.), and beverage containers from fast food restaurants throughout the country. Researchers then measured the fluorine levels in the samples and found 46% of food contact papers and 20% of paperboard samples contained "detectable" fluorine.

Fluorine, also known as per- and polyflouoalkyl substances (PFASs) have been linked to cancers, immunotoxicity, and developmental toxicity. The report states the most-commonly found PFASs have been associated with kidney and testicular cancer, low birth weight, thyroid disease, decreased sperm quality, pregnancy-induced hypertension and immunotoxicity in children. Aside from potential health effects, the chemicals in the packaging can also cause environmental contamination once discarded according to the report.

The samples were collected from 27 large fast food chains. Among the types of samples, 57% of Tex-Mex wrappers contained fluorine levels above the limit of detection. This was followed by 56% of dessert/bread samples, 38% of sandwich and burger samples, and 20% of paperboard containers. No paper cup samples had levels above detection but 16% of "other beverage containers" tested above the limits of detection.

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