‘Forever chemicals’ linked to cancer are found in virtually every food product sold in American stores, a shocking report suggests.
The watchdog Consumer Reports tested 85 everyday items for the presence of phthalates and bisphenols, two types of PFAS chemicals used to make plastics.
The researchers tried to make their sample size as broad as possible – testing water, soda, cereal, bread, meat, fish, condiments, desserts and even baby food.
All but one product tested positive for the substances, which have been dubbed ‘forever chemicals’ because they are virtually impossible to break down in the body where they cause untold health problems.
It comes amid growing fears about the massive amounts of chemicals being ingested by Americans every year – and whether it is related to a mystery spike in cancers among young people.
Products tested ranged from popular baby foods, staple BBQ condiments and store-brand products from Walmart and Trader Joe’s, to products like Purdue chicken and organic pasta.
A study earlier this week found water bottles contain a quarter of a million pieces of microscopic plastics.
In the latest report, Consumer Reports measured the amount of phthalates – a group of chemicals used to make plastics more durable – in products in nanograms, which indicates a mass equal to one billionth of a gram.
The product with the highest amount of phthalates per serving in nanograms was Annie’s canned organic cheesy ravioli, which contained 53,580 nanograms of phthalates per serving.
It is not clear how much of these get broken down by the body or released naturally during the digestive process. But the CDC says that between 2 and 20 nanograms per milliliter of blood can cause people adverse health problems.
The only product to test negative for phthalates was Polar Seltzer’s canned raspberry lime beverage.
Exposure to phthalates has been linked to asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes.
They have also been linked to a series of birth issues as well, including low IQ, behavioral issues, autism, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues.
Meanwhile, 79 percent tested positive for BPA and other bisphenols, another durable plasticizer found in water bottles, metal food cans, bottle tops, and water supply pipes.
They have been linked to brain damage and issues in the prostates of fetuses, infants and children. They can also impact behavior and increase blood pressure and have been associated with diabetes and heart disease.
The results may paint a grim picture of the chemicals Americans are consuming every day, but CR said levels of BPA were lower than when it tested similar products in 2009.
It ‘suggests that we are at least moving in the right direction on bisphenols,’ said Dr James Rogers, who oversees product safety testing at consumer Reports.
Microplastics including ‘forever chemicals’ are quietly causing a health crisis that costs the US a quarter of a trillion dollars every year, a study claims.
Consumer reports also tested 18 fast food products, which all came back positive for phthalates and most for the other chemicals too.
CR experts said the results show levels vary widely product-to-product and it hopes the results will help Americans make healthier choices of products with the lowest levels.
PFAS, also known as forever chemicals, lurk in tap water. They are man-made plastics that seep into our water systems
America began using PFAS in the 20th century in virtually every manufacturing industry – from food packaging to kitchenware and clothes.
They are defined as plastic particles with dimensions of less than five millimeters, around the size of a sesame seed, but thousands are too small to see with the naked eye.
The chemicals enter the water system and food supply through stormwater runoff, fishing, cargo, and cruiseships, and the wearing down of household products that contain water-repellant properties such as nonstick cookware.
When the tiny substances enter the body, can they become lodged in tissues and enter the bloodstream. Once there, they prompt widespread inflammation when the immune system recognizes it as a foreign invader.
This inflammation can lead to tissue damage and inflammation in crucial organs such as the liver and the heart.
Over time, they accumulate in the body, compounding the damage to the point that it becomes irreversible and potentially deadly.
Dr Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician and director of the Program for Global Public Health and the Common Good at Boston College, told CR: ‘Unlike a plane crash, where everyone dies at once, the people who die from these die over many years.’
A study earlier this week found microplastics including ‘forever chemicals’ are quietly causing a health crisis that costs the US a quarter of a trillion dollars every year – through things like cancer, obesity and other chronic illnesses.
BPA is an ‘endocrine disruptor,’ meaning it can imitate the body’s hormones and interfere with the production of and response to natural hormones like estrogen. It has also been linked to low sperm counts and infertility in men, as well as breast and prostate cancer
For the CR repot, researchers split the products they tested into 11 categories: beverages; canned beans; condiments; dairy; fast food; grains; infant food; meat and poultry; packaged fruits and vegetables; prepared meals; and seafood.
Among the nine products tested in the beverages category, Brisk’s canned lemon iced tea had the highest levels of phthalates in nanograms, at 7,460 per serving.
Coca-Cola’s original canned soda, Lipton’s diet green tea citrus in a plastic bottle and Poland Spring’s 100 percent natural spring water in a plastic bottle followed in second through fourth places.
Four products were tested in the canned beans category, with Hormel’s canned chili with beans taking the top spot. The product showed it had 9,840 phthalates per serving.
Bush’s canned chili red beans, Walmart’s baked beans and Bush’s baked beans rounded out the category.
Of the three products in the condiments space, Mrs Butterworth’s original syrup in a plastic container tested highest, with 1,000 nanograms of phthalates per serving. Second and third place went to Hunt’s tomato ketchup and Sweet Baby Ray’s original BBQ sauce in a plastic bottle, respectively.
Fairlife’s core power high protein milk shake in a plastic bottle had the highest levels of phthalates among the 10 dairy products tested, with 20,450 per serving.
In the fast food category, CR tested 18 products, ranging from Wendy’s menu items and McDonald’s French fries to a Chipotle burrito and Pizza Hut’s cheese pizza.
Taking the top spot with nearly 34,000 nanograms of phthalates per serving was Wendy’s crispy chicken nuggets served in a cardboard container.
Second through fifth places went to Moe’s Southwest Gill’s chicken burrito wrapped in tinfoil, Chipotle’s chicken burrito wrapped in tinfoil, Burger King’s whopper with cheese served in a cardboard box and Burger King’s chicken nuggets served in a paper bag, respectively.
Among grains, General Mills’ original cheerios ranked highest.
While the cereal is advertised as good for your heart, it had nearly 11,000 phthalates per serving.
Concerning results for parents, CR tested seven products in the infant food category.
The products ranged from having 700 to 4,300 phthalates per serving.
Taking the top spot was Gerber’s mealtime for baby harvest turkey dinner, with 4,300 phthalates.
A close second was Similac’s canned advance infant milk-based powder formula, with 4,200 phthalates per serving.
Among the nine meat and poultry products, Perdue’s ground chicken breast in plastic tested for the highest amounts of phthalates per serving – at nearly 10,000 nanograms.
Del Monte’s canned sliced peaches in fruit juice tested at a level of 25,000 nanograms of phthalates per serving, the highest by nearly triple of the six products in the packaged fruits and vegetables category.
Another Del Monte product made the top three in the category, albeit it had one-fifth of the chemicals – the company’s fresh cut Italian canned green beans had a level of 5,300 phthalates per serving.
Coming in with the highest levels in the prepared meals categories and of all 85 products was Annie’s organic cheesy ravioli in a can. This product tested positive for 53,580 nanograms of phthalates per serving.
In the last category -seafood – Chicken of the Sea’s canned skinless, boneless pink salmon in water had the highest levels of phthalates per serving by more than triple the runner up – 24,320.
Dr Rogers said the results show how widespread the chemicals are, but declining levels and widely swinging amounts in different products by the same company show ‘there are ways to reduce how much is in our foods.’