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Briefly in good living

Chicago

Research: Chemicals in wrappers are dangerous

For more than three decades, fast-food chains have relied on the chemical industry to keep grease and oil from soaking through burger wrappers, french fry cartons and pizza boxes.

Few questioned the safety of the specially coated packaging until the early 2000s, when lawsuits uncovered the history of a class of chemicals widely used in consumer goods with practically no government oversight.

Researchers slowly began to realize that many of those compounds, known as perfluorinated chemicals, break down in people’s bodies to a chemical called PFOA that lingers in the bloodstream for years. Other studies determined PFOA can cause cancer, damage the liver, trigger reproductive problems and scramble hormones during critical stages of development.

McDonald’s, Burger King and other chains pledged to stop using the chemicals, and manufacturers began to phase them out. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of three PFCs in food packaging.

— Tribune News Service