Beware the Food Wrappers

As if you didn't already have enough reasons to dump those packaged meals and snacks (artificial/indecipherable ingredients, unhealthy, wasteful), here's a study that should give you some food for thought: researchers from the University of Toronto found that perfluorinated chemicals commonly found in wrappers can migrate into some foods which, once ingested, become bioavailable in the human body.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Science Advisory Board classified perfluorinated chemicals such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) as likely human carcinogens in 2006, and recent animal studies have demonstrated that they affect neonatal development, hormone levels, the liver and the immune system. While past studies have revealed that direct exposure to anthropogenic perfluorinated contaminants like PFOA and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) isn't a serious health concern, scientists have determined that other chemicals, including fluorotelomer alcohols (FTOHs), serve as indirect exposure sources when they break down to form them. Previous research conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had already shown that the perfluorinated chemicals that render food wrappers greaseproof could in certain cases migrate into foods at levels up to several hundred times higher than FDA-approved guidelines indicate.

One such perfluorinated chemical is polyfluoroalkyl phosphate surfactant (PAPS). In their study, Jessica D'eon and Scott Mabury, both chemists at the University of Toronto, demonstrated in rats that once ingested, PAPS became bioavailable and was metabolized to form PFOA and other chemicals.

"Because these are large molecules, presumably an assumption was made that these surfactants were not bioavailable," says Scott Mabury. "We have shown that's wrong, at least in rats. Then, it's been assumed that they wouldn't break down—also incorrect. And now it appears that these chemicals can migrate into foods at much higher levels than previously thought."

To test their hypothesis that PAPS was bioavailable and subject to metabolic degradation, D'eon gave the rats a large amount of the chemicals and monitored their blood over the next 15 days. She discovered that while the PAPS remained unchanged at first, several metabolic intermediates indicative of FTOH exposure appeared, and eventually PFOA, which became concentrated in the rats' livers.

Jon Martin, an environmental and analytical chemist at the University of Alberta, says that such studies are important because "they show that it's feasible for food contact chemicals to migrate from paper to food and to be responsible for some of the PFOA in humans."

In a report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), government scientists found levels of PFOA, PFOS and other perfluorinated chemicals in blood samples taken from a representative sample of the American population from 1999 to 2000. Perfluorinated sulfonamides, which break down to form PFOS, were discovered in more than 90% of the samples.

Via ::PFOA in People

See also: ::Wall Street Journal on Toxic Chemicals, ::Toxic Shock: Avoiding Dangerous Chemicals Around Us, ::Lipstick, Shampoo, Nail Polish - How Toxic is OK?, ::Argentinian Bricks from Candy Wrapper and Plastic Bottles, ::Stuff that Burger Wrapper in Your Gas Tank, ::Ecoist Recycled Wrapper Handbags

Tags: EPA | Local Food | San Francisco | Toronto