A third of fast food wrappers may contain potentially harmful chemicals, study finds

The various health issues surrounding the frequent consumption of fast food have been well documented.

But a new study is raising separate concerns about the wrapping those greasy burgers and fries food come in, claiming that the packaging using to repel those food oils actually poses a huge risk to consumers.

According to a new study published Feb. 1 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters, a third of fast food wrappers have potentially harmful chemicals-- perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs)-- that have been linked to various ailments including thyroid problems, pregnancy complications and high blood pressure.


After gathering hundreds of wrappers from several fast food restaurants in Grand Rapids, Mich., Washington, D.C., Seattle, San Francisco and Boston over a two year period, the researchers were able to measure levels of fluorine. Fluorine indicates the existence of PFCs.

According to the Chicago Tribune, 33 percent of the samples collected from McDonald’s, Burger King, Starbucks and other restaurants contained fluorine while others had traces of PFOA, a chemical currently banned by the Food and Drug Administration.

Exposure to PFC, according to the Environmental Working Group, has been connected with increased levels of testicular and kidney cancer. It could also cause elevated blood cholesterol levels, obesity, and more. Though the chemical was detected in a significant amount of food wrappers, the researchers say it's difficult to measure how much, if any, actually makes it into the food.

“There is very little public information on how much leaching occurs, as there are lots of different types of coatings made with this family of chemicals,” David Andrews, a scientist involved with the study, said in a statement.


But the study authors say food chains can avoid any potential hazards with a simple switch.

“Our tests show they are not necessary, because there are PFC-free food wrappers readily available,” he continued.

Sandwich and burger wrappers tested positive 38 percent of the time while dessert wrappers had a 57 percent chance of contamination. Paper cups didn’t have any signs of fluorine, according to the analysis.

The samples for the study were taken in 2014 and 2015, indicating that current changes to the fast food industry may have not been in place during the study’s testing period.