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Hidden toxins in fast food packaging may up cancer risk

Hidden toxins in fast food packaging may up cancer risk
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New York: Your love for pizzas, French fries and burgers that come packed in greaseproof paper -- containing fluorinated compounds -- may lead to developmental problems in children, decreased fertility and an increased risk of cancer, researchers warned.

The findings showed that food packaging contains more than two dozen toxic highly fluorinated chemicals, including a phased-out substance called PFASs (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), also known as PFCs, that come mostly from older, recycled materials or other undetermined sources.

"These chemicals have been linked with numerous health problems. Children are especially at risk for health effects because their developing bodies are more vulnerable to toxic chemicals," said lead author Laurel Schaider, an environmental chemist at Silent Spring Institute -- a non-profit organisation in Massachusetts, US.

"Exposure to some PFASs has also been associated with cancer, thyroid disease, immune suppression, low birth weight, and decreased fertility," Schaider added.

For the study, appearing in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, the team applied a novel technique using particle-induced gamma-ray emission (PIGE) spectroscopy to analyse the samples for fluorine -- a marker of PFASs.

The results showed that almost half of paper wrappers (e.g., burger wrappers and pastry bags) and 20 per cent of paperboard samples (e.g., boxes for fries and pizza) contained fluorine. Tex-Mex food packaging and dessert and bread wrappers, in particular, were most likely to contain fluorine compared with other categories of packaging.

Apart from food packaging, the chemical is also used in an array of non-stick, stain-resistant cookware -- and in waterproof products, including carpeting, outdoor apparel.

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