People Who Eat Home-Cooked Meals Have Less Exposure to Cancer-Linked PFAS Chemicals

According to a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, people who eat more home-cooked meals have less exposure to harmful per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a harmful substance commonly found in foods and food-contact materials (FCMs), and have been linked to cancer.

To conduct this study, researchers analyzed the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for data on serum PFAS and dietary recall published between 2003-2014. They utilized multivariable linear regression models to assess the connection between eating fasting food, restaurant food, food eaten at home, and microwave popcorn and serum levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA), perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS), and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).

According to the findings, calories of food eaten at home in the past 24 h were linked with lower levels of all five PFASs; an association found stronger in women. Moreover, the consumption of meals from fast food restaurants and other restaurants was generally associated with higher PFAS levels, based on 24-hour and 7-day recall. Also, the results showed that the consumption of popcorn was correlated with significantly higher serum levels of PFOA, PFNA, PFDA, and PFOS, based on 24-hour and 12-month recall, up to a 63% (95% CI, 34 to 99) increase in PFDA among those who ate popcorn daily over the last 12 months.

“This is the first study to observe a link between different sources of food and PFAS exposures in the U.S. population,” says co-author Laurel Schaider, PhD, an environmental chemist at Silent Spring Institute in a press release about the study. “Our results suggest migration of PFAS chemicals from food packaging into food can be an important source of exposure to these chemicals.”

“The general conclusion here is the less contact your food has with food packaging, the lower your exposures to PFAS and other harmful chemicals,” says Rodgers. “These latest findings will hopefully help consumers avoid these exposures and spur manufacturers to develop safer food packaging materials.”