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A Bad Wrap

Food packaging is a potential source of chemicals in the bloodstream

A study led by two University of Toronto chemists has shown that potentially harmful chemicals commonly applied to food wrappers can make their way into the bloodstream.

Earlier research has found that perfluorinated chemicals can migrate from wrappers into food. The new study, by environmental chemists Scott Mabury and Jessica D’eon, establishes that the wrappers are a potential source of these chemicals in human blood. Professor Mabury, chair of the department of chemistry, and D’eon, a doctoral student, fed the chemicals to rats, whose blood was monitored daily. The chemicals appeared in the rodents’ bloodstream within four hours, which suggests a similar process could occur in humans.

Researchers have not yet determined the impact of the chemicals on human health, but Mabury says the findings suggest more research is warranted. “I think our results do indicate that a broader look is necessary,” he says, “especially when it comes to the potential for toxicity.”

“I think [regulators] have made three assumptions,” says Mabury. “That the chemicals wouldn’t move off paper into food, they wouldn’t become available to the body and the body wouldn’t process them. They were wrong on all three counts.”

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