Do you dine out frequently or love to eat outside? Beware! as frequent dining out can adversely affect your health, reveals a new study. According to researchers, love for fast foods, dining out more at restaurants and cafeterias triggers a sharp increase in the levels of ‘phthalates’, a chemical that adversely affects health. What’s striking is that the effect of the chemical is more pronounced on children, teenagers and pregnant women.
Phthalates, or phthalate esters, are esters of phthalic acid. They are mainly used as plasticizers, i.e., substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity. They are used primarily to soften polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Phthalates are extensively used in food packaging and processing materials.
“This study suggests food prepared at home is less likely to contain high levels of ‘phthalates’, chemicals linked to fertility problems, pregnancy complications and other health issues,” said senior author Ami Zota, Assistant Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University.
Researchers collected data of 10,253 participants from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) collected between 2005 and 2014. The team found that people who dined out frequently had higher levels of phthalates and health problems in long run.
“Pregnant women, children and teens are more vulnerable to the toxic effects of hormone-disrupting chemicals, so it’s important to find ways to limit their exposures,” said lead author Julia Varshavsky who did the work while she was at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health.
As per Wikipedia, Due to the ubiquity of plasticized plastics, the majority of people are exposed to some level of phthalates. For example, most Americans tested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have metabolites of multiple phthalates in their urine. In studies of rodents exposed to certain phthalates, high doses have been shown to change hormone levels and cause birth defects.
Phthalates are used in a large variety of products, from enteric coatings of pharmaceutical pills and nutritional supplements to viscosity control agents, gelling agents, film formers, stabilizers, dispersants, lubricants, binders, emulsifying agents, and suspending agents. End-applications include adhesives and glues, agricultural adjuvants, building materials, personal-care products, medical devices, detergents and surfactants, packaging, children’s toys, modelling clay, waxes, paints, printing inks and coatings, pharmaceuticals, food products, and textiles. Phthalates are also frequently used in soft plastic fishing lures, caulk, paint pigments, and sex toys made of so-called “jelly rubber”. Phthalates are used in a variety of household applications such as shower curtains, vinyl upholstery, adhesives, floor tiles, food containers and wrappers, and cleaning materials. Personal-care items containing phthalates include perfume, eye shadow, moisturizer, nail polish, liquid soap, and hair spray.
Phthalates are also found in modern electronics and medical applications such as catheters and blood transfusion devices. The most widely used phthalates are di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP), and diisononyl phthalate (DINP). DEHP was the dominant plasticizer used globally in PVC due to its low cost. Benzylbutylphthalate (BBP) is used in the manufacture of foamed PVC, which is used mostly as a flooring material, although its use is decreasing rapidly in the Western countries. Phthalates with small R and R’ groups are used as solvents in perfumes and pesticides.
Approximately 8.4 million tonnes of plasticizers are produced globally every year, of which European produced accounts for approximately 1.5 million metric tonnes. Approximately 70% of those totals are phthalates, down from about 88% in 2005. The remaining 30% are alternative chemistries. Plasticizers contribute 10-60% of total weight of plasticized products. More recently in Europe and the US, regulatory developments have resulted in a change in phthalate consumption, with the higher phthalates (DINP and DIDP) replacing DEHP as the general purpose plasticizer of choice because DIDP and DINP were not classified as hazardous. All of these mentioned phthalates are now regulated and restricted in many products. DEHP, although most applications are shown to pose no risk when studied using recognized methods of risk assessment, has been classified as a Category 1B reprotoxin, and is now on the Annex XIV of the European Union’s REACH legislation. DEHP has been phased out in Europe under REACH and can only be used in specific cases if an authorisation has been granted. Authorisations are granted by the European Commission, after obtaining the opinion of the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) and the Committee for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC) of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).