A proverb says, “Good things come in small packages,” but when the packaging itself is questionable, it makes what's inside even worse. This is true of fast food.
Savers know fast food is unhealthy and that it can worsen osteoporosis and osteopenia. Now a recently published environmental study has shown one more reason to avoid fast food: the fluoride-containing chemicals used in fast food packaging leach into the food, increasing your toxic load and further weakening your bones.
Toxic Chemicals Found In Fast Food Packaging
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are persistent chemicals (meaning they accumulate in the body over time) that have been in commercial use worldwide since the 1940s. PFAs have found their way into a wide array of consumer products, from non-stick cookware and stain-resistant carpets to water-repellent clothing and cosmetics, to waxes, polishes, and other cleaning products. They're also found in municipal drinking water.1
While you may have given up non-stick cookware for healthier alternatives such as stainless steel, fluoride, a chemical that damages teeth and bones, and can lead to an underactive thyroid, is hiding in the fast food packaging.
Fluoride is a hidden component of PFAs: that's what the “fluoro-” in “polyfluoroalkyl substances” means.
Fluoride has been scientifically proven to increase hip fracture risk. Like other persistent chemicals, ingested fluoride accumulates in our bones, which can lead to mottling of the teeth and even skeletal fluorosis.
Hip fractures have increased significantly since water fluoridation began in the 1950s. Yet even with the weight of evidence suggesting fluoride added to tap water exacerbates the risk of hip fractures in elderly women and men, the CDC continues to tout water fluoridation as an achievement in reducing tooth decay.
And although PFAs have been extensively studied, their adverse health effects — including the health threat from fluoride — have been suppressed for decades.2
When you look at the myriad ways PFAs can cause harm, it's no surprise big business didn't want the word to get out. PFAs can:
- disrupt hormonal function3
- depress the immune system3
- stunt children's growth and learning3
- increase cholesterol levels3
- reduce your chances of getting pregnant3
- increase the risk of cancer3
PFAs are used in fast food wrappers because they're grease resistant, and as you know, fast food is very greasy.
So how has the bad news about fast food wrappers been kept under wraps for so long?
Corporations with a stake in the results stood to take a financial bath if researchers revealed the presence of PFAs. For example, a 1978 monkey study demonstrated immune system interference, and PFAs were found in umbilical cord blood back in 1981. But neither study was published or followed up.4 And absent scientific proof, the compounds were spread into the environment without further scrutiny.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made, persistent chemicals that contain fluoride and are harmful to bones. They can cause damage throughout the body, from suppression of the immune system to learning disabilities to cancer. Companies that manufacture products containing PFAs have suppressed the research that proved its dangers for decades. As a result, PFA use increased, and can now be found even in fast food packaging.
Toxicity In Your Bones, Your Brain And Your Liver
In scientific studies, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), one of the most widely used perfluoroalkanes (PFAs), caused a range of toxic effects in lab rats, including liver and brain dysfunction, along with promoting cancer and the reproductive and developmental delays previously described.5
Considering that your bones and overall health are already at risk from the toxic ingredients in fast food, coupled with the known toxicity of its packaging, it is clearly a poor choice to include fast food in your diet. Yet sadly, the general population still appears to be unaware of the risks. In the first federal study to examine how often adults indulge in fast food, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed 10,000 adults over a four-year period. They found that one in three U.S. adults (about 85 million people) eat fast food every day.6
This is an alarming statistic. And, surprisingly, the CDC found those in higher income brackets ate more fast food than people who earned less — possibly because the first group has more discretionary income to spend on such items.
PFAs are toxic chemicals, potentially causing liver and brain damage, reproductive and learning problems, bone fractures, heart disease, and cancer. Yet a new CDC study found 1 in 3 American adults eat fast food daily, and people in higher income brackets are more likely to indulge than those who earn less.
PFAs Also Pollute The Water
We touched on the fact that PFAs also contaminate our drinking water. How do they get there? Consumer products coated with fluorinated chemicals, inluding those fast food wrappers, accumulate in landfills and can migrate into groundwater. These persistent chemicals are even permitted in compostable packaging — which makes no sense since chemicals that never break down are the antithesis of compost.
Yet most people are unaware of the danger to our water supply. Once again, a study — funded by taxpayers — was kept secret. According to a new analysis conducted by the Environmental Working Group,
More than 1,500 drinking water systems across the country may be contaminated with the nonstick chemicals PFOA and PFOS, and similar fluorine-based chemicals.
Independent scientific assessments find that the safe level of exposure to PFAS chemicals is about 1 ppt — significantly below the reporting level set by the EPA.7
The EWG findings indicate that approximately 110 million people across the U.S. could have PFAs in their water at levels more than two and a half times the Environmental Protection Agency's safety limit.
While shocking, there is a course of action you can take: filter your drinking water. Drinking enough water is crucial in preventing osteoporosis — but not if the water you're drinking is toxic. We recommend investing in a good water purification system.
PFAs, which contain bone-damaging fluoride, find their way into our drinking water by leaching into landfills and migrating into groundwater. The Environmental Working Group found that more than 110 million people are drinking water containing more than two and a half times the safe limit. One solution is to get a water purification system at your home.
Cook Most Of Your Meals At Home
When it comes to osteoporosis and osteopenia, Savers know fast food is a bone of contention. Now that you know its packaging can compromise your health as much or more than the food itself, it's one more good reason to skip the fast food. Instead, make delicious pH-balanced bone-healthy meals at home.
Eat Your Way to Stronger Bones!
Discover over 200 mouth-watering bone healthy recipes for breakfast, smoothies, appetizers, soups, salads, vegetarian dishes, fish, and plenty of main courses and even desserts!
1 Laurel A. Schaideret al., “Fluorinated Compounds in U.S. Fast Food Packaging”, Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett., 2017, 4 (3), pp 105–111
DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.6b00435. Web. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.estlett.6b00435
2 Philippe Grandjean, “Delayed discovery, dissemination, and decisions on intervention in environmental health: a case study on immunotoxicity of perfluorinated alkylate substances,” Environmental Health 201817:62. Web.https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12940-018-0405-y
3 “Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and Your Health”. Web: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/health-effects.html
4 “PFCS: Global contaminants: PFOA is a pervasive pollutant in human blood, as are other PFCS”, April 3, 2003. Web. https://www.ewg.org/research/pfcs-global-contaminants/pfoa-pervasive-pollutant-human-blood-are-other-pfcs#.W7vWLi2ZMxh
5 Mashayekhi V. et al., “Mechanistic approach for the toxic effects of perfluorooctanoic acid on isolated rat liver and brain mitochondria”. Hum Exp Toxicol. 2015 Oct;34(10):985-96. doi: 10.1177/0960327114565492. Epub 2015 Jan 13. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25586001
6 Cheryl D. Fryar, M.S.P.H et. Al., “Fast Food Consumption Among Adults in the United States, 2013–2016”, NCHS Data Brief No. 322, October 2018. Web. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db322-h.pdf
7 David Andrews, Senior Scientist, “Report: Up To 110 Million Americans Could Have PFAs-Contaminated Drinking Water”. Environmental Working Group May 22, 2018. Web. https://www.ewg.org/research/report-110-million-americans-could-have-pfas-contaminated-drinking-water#.W7tqYRNKiRu%20%20
8 WG's Updated Water Filter Buying Guide https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/water-filter-guide.php