Exposure to Phthalate Chemicals from Different Dietary Sources

Phthalates belong to a class of chemicals generally found in plastics. A new study1 by researchers at Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University and other institutions2 suggests food is a significant and underappreciated source of human exposure to these chemicals.

Percent difference in phthalate levels:

Percent difference in phthalate levels for people who dined out compared to those who only ate food prepared at home:

By age group and source of food:

Dining Out Source Children (6-11) Adolescents (12-19) Adults (20 or Older)
Fast food restaurant 29% 47% 39%
Full-service restaurant 46% 52% 41%
Cafeteria 15% 45% 64%

By age group and type of food:

Type of Food Children (6-11) Adolescents (12-19) Adults (20 or Older)
Meat sandwiches 35% 37% 31%
Fried potatoes 8.2%5 7.6%5 26%
Pizza 22% 3.2%5 9.1%5

Includes any amount of consumption of foods away from home.

Conclusion

You can’t go wrong with home-cooked meals. They are often healthier, lower in unhealthy fats and sugar — and this study suggests they’re less likely to contain potentially harmful phthalates.

Created by MPH@GW, the online Master of Public Health program from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University



1 Varshavsky et al. Dietary sources of cumulative phthalates among the U.S. general population in NHANES 2005-2014. Environment International 2018. Return to footnote reference
2 Authors include: Julia R. Varshavsky (University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, and University of California, San Francisco, Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment), Rachel Morello-Frosch (University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, and University of California, Berkeley, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management), Tracey J. Woodruff (University of California, San Francisco, Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment), and Ami Zota (Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health) Return to footnote reference
3 “Food away from home” includes food from restaurants, cafeterias, and fast foods Return to footnote reference
4 “Food prepared at home” refers to food that was purchased at the store but eaten at home Return to footnote reference
5 Indicates numbers that are not statistically significant Return to footnote reference


Milken Institute School of Public Health

Phone Number: 1-855-674-2849

Email Address: admissions@publichealthonline.gwu.edu

Legal

© The George Washington University