Friday, November 12, 2010
Microwave popcorn bags may contain harmful chemicals
Wrapping used to line popcorn and other junk food is leaving dangerous chemicals inside some foods, a new study says.
University of Toronto scientists have discovered chemical contamination in the blood of those who ingest foods wrapped in these papers.
Perfluorinated carboxylic acids or PFCAs are the breakdown products from chemicals used in the manufacture of certain products, such as non-stick pans, clothing and food packaging.
Theses PFCAs have been discovered in humans and have been worrying scientists for years.
Now it seems the major source of human PFCA exposure may be in the consumption of polyfluoroalkyl phosphate esters or PAPs, which are the chemicals found in junk food papers.
"Those chemicals called PAPs move into food, make it into humans upon ingestion and metabolically are transformed into the PFCAs," said Scott Mabury, the lead researcher and a professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Toronto.
The packages are lined with this chemical to act as a grease-proofing agent to keep water and fat from escaping.
"Any kind of paper-based food packaging that comes into contact with food may contain these materials," said Mabury.
"Usually it's the popcorn bags, the fast food wrappers, but frankly it's much more widespread than that," he added. "It's not just in the fast food industry."
The discovery is important because it could help scientists control human chemical exposure, now that they understand the source of this exposure.
In the past, some scientists have tried to blame chemical exposure on environmental contamination from past chemical use, rather than chemicals in production right now.
"What our results suggest is actually that a significant proportion of that (PFCA) is being made in the body from these food packaging chemicals," said Mabury.
It's not known exactly how dangerous these chemicals are to humans, but Mabury said the chemical personality is "highly reactive," which is concerning.
The study was published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
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