The researchers have also tried to reach out to the fast food chains from where the packaging samples came from. One is that every fast-food chain where we tested more than six samples, all the major ones, had at least one that tested positive for fluorine on its paper products. They also found PFASs in 38% of sandwich wrappers, including burger packaging, and 20% of paperboard.
"We know that some PFASs can stay in our bodies for days, weeks, even as long as years, so our bodies accumulate these chemicals over long periods of time from many different sources".
Although major US manufacturers have agreed to phase out long-chain PFASs in consumer products, other countries still produce them, and many companies have been replacing them with shorter-chain PFAS compounds, some of which were detected in the study. These same chemicals are found in stain-resistant products, firefighter materials and nonstick cookware.
The results come at a time when about one-third of US children consume fast food daily, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
A new study revealed that some harmful substances, called perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), were found in fast food wrappings.
"These fast food companies need to look at their supply chains".
The researchers did further test a smaller number of samples using the older, slightly more reliable technique.
Peaslee used a novel specialized method called particle-induced gamma-ray emission (PIGE) spectroscopy, which he developed to analyze the total fluorine content of each piece of packaging.
They found that one-third of all samples tested contained detectable amounts of fluorine, which is a marker for PFASs.
The World Health Organization deems PFOA a possible carcinogen, and the U.S. National Toxicology Program considers PFOA and PFOS likely toxic to developing immune systems. However, these chemicals are still manufactured in other parts of the world and may find their way into current packaging via recycled paper, the authors noted.
There is particular concern regarding the long-term effects of these chemicals on children, said a chemical exposure specialist who wasn't involved in the study.
PFOA refuses to break down, even at high temperatures, making it really hard to get rid of. According to the Environmental Working Group, some moisturizers and sunscreens contain PFASs.
FDA spokeswoman Megan McSeveney said the agency has "carefully reviewed the available science" on the short-chain compounds and hasn't identified any safety concerns. The research team hopes that their findings will encourage fast food chains to consider nontoxic food packaging. Burger King reportedly phased out the use of fluorinated chemicals in its packaging in 2002. Liquid chromatography/high-resolution mass spectrometry analysis of a subset of 20 samples found perfluorocarboxylates, perfluorosulfonates, and other known PFASs and/or unidentified polyfluorinated compounds (based on nontargeted analysis). "But it's hard for a consumer to choose food packaging that doesn't have fluorinated chemicals". They say there are plenty of materials that don't contain fluorine that can be used to package fast food. The USDA no longer allows either compound in food packaging, but still permits the use of more than 90 "short-chain" PFCs.