Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Researchers writing in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health say that chemicals found in packaging and processed foods could be harmful to health over the long term.
Environmental scientists wrote in a commentary piece featured in the journal about how these synthetic chemicals are able to find their way into the foods we eat. Some of these chemicals are regulated, but over time people eating packaged or processed foods are being exposed to low levels of these substances throughout their lives, the scientists say.
The authors claim that too little is known about the long term impact of these chemicals, including at crucial stages of human development. They point out that lifelong exposure to food contact materials (FCMs) – substances used in packaging and processing – is a cause for concern for several reasons.
Toxicants like formaldehyde are legally used in some materials, despite being known as a cancer causing substance as well as a way to preserve dead bodies. Formaldehyde is widely used in plastic bottles for fizzy drinks and melamine tableware. Other chemicals known to disrupt hormone production also can be found in FCMs, including bisphenol A, tributyltin, triclosan, and phthalates.
“Whereas the science for some of these substances is being debated and policy makers struggle to satisfy the needs of stakeholders, consumers remain exposed to these chemicals daily, mostly unknowingly,” the authors wrote in the journal.
The scientists say potential cellular changes caused by these chemicals and in those with the capacity to disrupt hormones are not being considered in routine toxicology analysis. The authors suggest that this casts serious doubts on the adequacy of chemical regulatory procedures.
The environmental scientists say establishing potential cause and effect results from these substances is not easy because there are no unexposed populations to compare it with. However, they stress that some sort of study is needed to tease out any potential links between food contact chemicals and chronic conditions like cancer, obesity, diabetes, neurological and inflammatory disorders.
“Since most foods are packaged, and the entire population is likely to be exposed, it is of utmost importance that gaps in knowledge are reliably and rapidly filled,” the authors wrote.