Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Popcorn, Pizza and Poison

Thomas Riggins

Science marches on continuing to expose health and safety hazards that the large corporations dominating both the governments and the people of most of world expose all of us to in their quest for profits and markets.

A recent example to come to light is reported in a November 9, 2010 article in Science Daily regarding the dangerous toxic chemicals in fast food packaging ("Dangerous Chemicals in Food Wrappers Likely Migrating to Humans.") Chemists at the University of Toronto have been looking for the likely origin of PFCAs (perflorinated carboxylic acids) that appear as chemical contaminants in human blood.

One common PFCA is found in human blood all over the world. This is PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid). One of the chemists involved in the study, Jessica D'eon explained PFOA, the best known PFCA, like all PFCAs, is produced by the break down of polyfluoroalkyl phosphate esters (PAPs). "PAPs," she explained "are applied as greaseproofing agents to paper food contact packaging such as fast food wrappers and microwave popcorn bags."

These chemicals have been made industrially since the 1940s and are so widely used that they are found in the blood of most humans world wide. They are known to cause cancer and to have toxic effects. Industry has been successful in keeping them unregulated.

Scientists are now pushing for some government intervention but mere human health seems to always take a back seat to profits under capitalism. This new study shows that, in the words of
Scott Mabury who supervised the research, "the current use of PAPs in food contact applications does result in human exposure to PFCAs" in a significant way. The new research is also important because "some try to locate the blame for human exposure on environmental contamination that resulted from past chemical use rather than the chemicals that are currently in production."

Some governments are at least waking up to the possible need to regulate these chemicals, but they will drag their feet, if history is any guide, and allow lobbyists from the food and chemical industries to slow down and even postpone the implementation of regulations. Meanwhile, next time you unwrap your burger just remember you may be getting a little dose of poison with every bite.

As for pizza, a 2007 study carried out in Italy determined that the chemicals in recycled cardboard could be contaminating pizzas ("Chemicals From Recycled Cardboard May Contaminate Take-out Food, Researchers Say," Science Daily Nov. 30, 2007.) Here's the deal. Trying to be "green" (and no doubt to save on production costs) pizza box manufactures are turning to recycled cardboard to make pizza boxes.

The problem is the cardboard comes from many sources and often has printing on it, just as the pizza box does. Now there is a chemical in ink, DIBP (diisobutyl phthalate) which lurks in the recycled cardboard and the heat of the nice hot pizza inside the box causes it to leach out of the cardboard and settle down on the pizza so when you get your pizza with onions and peppers it actually come with onions, peppers and DIBP which has a similar make up to androgenic hormones (also known as testoids) in your body. Testoids can reduce sperm production and also induce sex differences along with other dire results.

The scientists who conducted this study have developed a test which can detect the amount of DIBP in pizza boxes (as well as other recycled materials used in food packaging). In Italy the use of recycled cardboard in pizza boxes has been banned. But what about the U.S.? Health conscious Americans can take comfort from the following 2010 news story by Trish Green:

"The Green Groove
Wal-Mart Recycles Cardboard Waste into Pizza Boxes

Pizza just got a bit greener at your local Wal-Mart!

Wal-Mart recently made a pretty bold statement, according to an article in Environmental The company wants to eliminate all packaging waste by reducing, recycling or reusing everything that comes into its 4,100 American stores by 2025.

Now that would be an amazing green accomplishment, especially for one of the world’s most recognized and successful companies. As part of this recycling mission, Wal-Mart is taking all of its cardboard waste and turning it into pizza boxes!"

Bon appetit.

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