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Judy Levin's picture

You probably know that fast food is not “health food,” but you may not know that even the packaging in your fast food could be making you sick. According to a recent study, about 40% of the wrappers, containers and boxes used for fast food tested positive for fluorine, suggesting that they are made with highly flourinated chemicals. Some of these chemicals found in food packaging have been linked to serious diseases, including cancer, decreased fertility, immune and developmental health problems, and other illnesses.

These findings are especially alarming given surveys that have found that one-third of American children eat fast food daily. Scientists say that fluorinated chemicals can migrate from packaging into food, exposing children and adults who eat fast food to potentially toxic levels of these harmful compounds.

What does a burger and a couch have in common?

What’s worse, fast food is hardly the only way that children and families are exposed to these dangerous chemicals. Fluorinated chemicals, also known as PFAS or PFCs, are used for stain, water and/or grease resistance. They are not just in fast food wrappers but in many household items, including furniture, carpet and carpet cleaners, textiles, floor waxes, and outdoor apparel.

CEH is educating some of the nation’s largest purchasers about the health hazards of these chemicals. We have successfully influenced major furniture companies to make safer products without toxic flame retardant chemicals, and we are now focusing on eliminating fluorinated chemicals and other problem chemicals from furniture sold nationwide.

Protecting your family

Besides avoiding fast food (always a good idea!), you can learn about the hazards from toxic chemicals and get involved in the movement for healthier environments for children and families. There are also steps you can take now to avoid toxic hazards:

    • Avoid products with Teflon, Scotchguard, GoreTex and any products marketed as stain, water or grease resistant.  
    • Ask furniture companies for products made without flame retardants or fluorinated stain resistance treatments
    • Avoid microwaveable popcorn, as the bags are often coated with fluorinated chemicals.
    • Be sure that children wash their hands often, especially before eating and after being on the floor.
    • Check the CEH guides when buying furniture for your home or office, to find suppliers that offer safer products without toxic chemicals.

So skip the fast food burger, and if ketchup spills on the couch, just wipe it up with a little soap and water. And if you would like to learn more about these hidden health hazards, sign up for CEH's free e-alerts here.

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