Need another reason to eat at home? Not only does home cooking usually serve up cleaner ingredients and healthier meals, a new study shows it can lessen our interaction with some common harmful chemicals.
Researchers at the Silent Spring Institute and published a report in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives on how cooking at home reduces our exposure to harmful PFAS chemicals. Also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, PFAS are a class of chemicals commonly used in nonstick, stain-resistant and waterproof products; in particular, they are found in takeout and fast-food packaging.
PFAS have been linked to numerous health conditions, including cancer and decreased fertility, and because the possibility for exposure is so widespread, scientists are concerned about the health risks they pose.
“This is the first study to observe a link between different sources of food and PFAS exposures in the U.S. population. Our results suggest migration of PFAS chemicals from packaging into food can be an important source of exposure to these chemicals,” says study co-author Laurel Schaider, Ph.D., an environmental chemist at Silent Spring.
Researchers found that people who ate at home, with most of their meals coming from food purchased at a grocery store, had significantly fewer PFAS in their bodies than those whose meals were not primarily homemade. The suggestion is that fast food and food from restaurants may have greater contact with food packaging containing PFAS.
Food packaging can also contain other chemicals of concern, says co-author Kathryn Rodgers, a staff scientist at Silent Spring. In recent years, consumers have put pressure on manufacturers to remove hormone-disrupting compounds such as BPA and phthalates from packaging and products.
“These latest findings will hopefully help consumers avoid these exposures and spur manufacturers to develop safer food-packaging materials,” Rodgers says.