“Scientists have identified more than 3,000 potentially harmful chemicals that can be found in food packaging and other food-related materials”, the London Guardian reports.
Worryingly, at least two-thirds of these chemicals were not known to come into contact with food.
Harmful chemicals: shock results
The researchers performed a meta-study of more than 1,200 scientific studies where chemicals had been measured in food packaging, equipment for food processing, tableware and reusable food containers.
They were shocked to find chemicals in food-contact materials that consumers could have no knowledge of. Only a third of the chemicals studied appeared in a previously compiled database of more than 12,000 chemicals associated with the manufacturing of food-contact materials.
Previous studies have found potentially dangerous PFAS “forever chemicals” in food packaging. Those chemicals have been linked to a list of health problems.
Nearly two-thirds of the studies analyzed in the new report looked at chemicals from plastic. Manufacturers of packaging often add chemicals without knowing the long-term effects, said Jessica Heiges, a UC Berkeley doctoral candidate who studies disposable food items such as plasticware and packaging.
These chemicals “are terrifying because we don’t know what their impacts are”, Heiges said. “What’s most alarming is this cocktail of chemicals, how they’re interacting with each other. Some of them are persisting in the environment and in our bodies as we’re consuming them.”
Many of those unknown chemicals are likely to be harmful, said Alastair Iles, an associate professor in UC Berkeley’s environmental science, policy and management department, who was also not involved with the study.
Shocking study reveals leaching of dangerous chemicals from reusable plastic bottles
If you’re drinking water from reusable plastic bottles, you may want to think again about your choice of vessel. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen discovered hundreds of chemicals in tap water that was being stored in reusable soft plastic bottles.
Many of the chemicals are known to have harmful effects, including endocrine-disrupting substances, and the researchers were also shocked to discover substances that had never before been found in plastic.
Here at Herculean Strength, as part of our regular updates on how to protect yourself against the chemical assault of the modern world, we’ve already cautioned you to reduce your reliance on plastic, and this new research is further compelling evidence why you should do so.
“The report only underlines our gross ignorance when it comes to the chemicals that people are being exposed to every day,” he said.
“If we didn’t know that there were so many chemicals in packages, what does that say about our knowledge about chemical risks?”
The new analysis, published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, has been published amid growing concerns about exposure to potentially toxic chemicals in food and water.
The Food Packaging Forum has created a searchable database with the chemicals found in the packaging and equipment, known as food contact materials. While many of the chemicals on the list are known hazards such as phthalates and PFAS, others have not been adequately studied, the group said, and their health effects are unclear.
A report released on Thursday by the Food Packaging Forum, a Switzerland-based non-profit, noted that little is known about many of the 3,240 chemicals examined in these studies or their effects on people.
According to Pete Myers, a co-author of the report and chief scientist of Environmental Health Sciences, a non-profit advocacy group, many companies are intentionally or unintentionally adding these chemicals to packaging and other equipment. Many of these chemicals are ending up in the human body, he said.
“If we don’t know what it is, we don’t know its toxicity,” Myers said. “The mix of chemicals is just too complicated to allow us to regulate them safely.”
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