It’s no secret that fast food isn’t exactly considered healthy. For years, research has indicated that these quick-serve, mass-produced, cost-effective meals have been linked with an increased risk of various health conditions, including weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. If you only consume processed or fast food very occasionally, your risk of adverse effects is low. But aside from the high calorie, fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugar, and carb content in the average menu option, fast food meals are likely to contain other not-so-obvious ingredients that can cause additional health concerns.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (also referred to as PFASs) are fluorine-based chemicals in fast-food food packaging associated with cancer, fertility issues, low birth weight, and a weakened immune system, according to research published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters. After studying over 400 containers and food wrappers from fast-food chains around the country, the chemists discovered that 20% of french fry cardboard sleeves, 38% of burger and sandwich wrappers, and 56% of dessert and bread wrappers contained fluorine, which coat the packaging materials in order to repel grease and water. “It’s concerning that people could be exposed to these toxic chemicals through the food they eat,” said lead study author Dr. Laurel Schaider, an environmental chemist at Silent Spring Institute, as reported by the Environmental Working Group. “PFASs have been linked with numerous health effects including cancer. Children are especially at risk because their developing bodies are more vulnerable to toxic chemicals.”