We already know that people who eat fast food have higher levels of questionable industrial chemicals in their bodies — but a growing body of research suggests that two of the most common chemicals, phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), are also contributing to fertility problems that can affect people of all ages.
In a review of the exposure levels of BPA and phthalates — two widely-used chemicals present in the manufacturing of plastic food containers, linings, and food preparation equipment including machinery and vinyl gloves — in the United States from 2003 to 2010, researchers found that fast food was indeed correlated with higher levels of phthalates.
Both have been linked to reproductive issues for both men and women, though each seems to affect one gender more than the other. BPA exposure has been linked to miscarriages in expectant mothers, while phthalates appear to affect men’s testosterone development as well as sperm quality.
In a review of the diets of 9,000 participants aged six and older, those who had eaten fast food in the last 24 hours had 23.8 percent and 39 percent higher levels of urinary metabolites for two types of phthalates. Higher phthalate levels were also associated with meat and grains in general. The study did not find that recent fast food consumption was correlated with higher levels of BPA — likely because BPA is more commonly used for longer-term food storage, in canned food items and durable storage containers.
Another recent study found that BPA, also linked to several forms of cancer and neurological damage, is present in nearly 70 percent of canned food packaging in North America, while “phthalate exposure is widespread in the U.S. population,” according to the CDC. In response to a renewed interest in BPA exposure, two of the worst offenders, Campbell’s and Del Monte, pledged this month to complete a transition to BPA-free cans by the middle of next year.