By Michael Hawthorne
Excerpt: 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 food packaging until the early 2000s, when lawsuits uncovered the history of a class of chemicals that were widely used in consumer goods with practically no government oversight.
Researchers slowly began to realize that many of those compounds, known as perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, break down in people’s bodies to a chemical called PFOA that lingers in the bloodstream for years. Other studies determined that PFOA can cause cancer, damage the liver, trigger reproductive problems and scramble hormones during critical stages of development.
It turned out food wrappers were a major source of exposure. Under oath, a former DuPont chemist described how customers ingested the chemicals every time they ate a french fry.