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Study: Fast Food Wrappers Contain Cancer-Causing Chemicals

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – You already knew fast food wasn't the healthiest option, but a new study is revealing a new health concern, in the packaging.

Fluorinated chemicals are really unique in that they never break down.

And Tom Bruton, of the Green Science Policy Institute, says researchers found those chemicals in about a third of fast food packaging tested from dozens of popular chains nationwide.

Chemicals known to migrate from the wrapper into the food itself.

The chemicals are used to repel fast food oils, the same class of chemicals used in water-resistant, stain-resist or non-stick products. Some forms have been linked to health affects like cancer, elevated cholesterol, thyroid and developmental effects on children.

"Food contact material is a direct route of exposure to these chemicals for us, it's as if you were drinking them in your drinking water," Bruton said.

Incidentally, previous studies did find these chemicals in drinking water.

Bruton notes that the point of the study is not to scare you out of eating fast food, rather to expose the chemicals that researchers say simply aren't necessary.

"What they say in the study is that clearly a lot of these fast food establishments don't know these are there," Bruton said.

The American Chemistry Council is critical of the research, stating "Without further examination... it's impossible to draw any definitive conclusions about the nature and source of the compounds that were detected in this particular study."

They also note the industry is switching to -- what are believed to be -- safer versions of the chemicals.

And keep in mind, these are chemicals we're exposed to every day in products such as rain jackets.

"You're likely not going to get the same kind of exposure from those products, but you're not eating your rain jacket, right?" Bruton said.

Only two of the restaurants responded to the study's authors.

While the study was published Wednesday, the samples were tested between 2013 and 2015.

Critics note the industry is moving in a healthier direction, but Bruton points out some of the chemicals found in the study, were supposed to have been phased out a decade ago.

Other studies have found these chemicals in drinking water and in the blood of almost everyone tested.

Meanwhile, to reduce exposure, consumers can avoid food in contact with grease-proof packaging, such as microwave popcorn, some take-out containers and wraps around fast food.

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