Toxic Chemicals in Food Packaging and its Harmful Effects

Food Packaging is Hurting Your Kids with Toxic Chemicals

Are you aware of the toxic chemicals in food packaging and their harmful effects on our children today?

A microwave hot pocket, yogurt cups, and a bag of chips. The plastic container you had lunch from, water bottles, and the clear plastic wrap covering that snack cake you just gave your daughter. Manufacturers fill the supermarkets with thousands of factory processed foods and drinks, containing hidden ingredients known to endanger your children’s health and development.

Products like this are everywhere and, on the surface, seem harmless. Your pediatrician will tell you a different tale. These products, along with a host of processed foods, contain chemicals and food additives that the American Academy of Pediatrics now says are harmful to humans. It’s a serious issue because of many manufacturers market products containing these toxic chemicals and additives directly to young people.

Dangerous Toxic Chemicals in Food Packaging, Drink Cans, and Disposable Bottles

  • BPA – used as a coating in metal cans like infant formula packaging. In manufacturing infant formula cans, BPA has recently been banned and replaced with BPS; however, recent studies have shown similar health concerns with BPS.
  • Perchlorate – used in the plastic that stores dry foods such as cereal.
  • Perfluoroalkyl Chemicals – is used to coat food packaged items such as microwave popcorn bags and fast-food plastic wrappers.
  • Phthalates – a group of chemicals widely used in hundreds of products, one being food packaging.


Toxic Chemicals in Food Packaging and its Harmful Effects

The list above is just a small sample of some common chemicals used in food packaging and manufacturing that pediatricians now know to harm children. Some pose a danger to children’s health, and others affect different aspects of development, attitude, or behavior.

Here is what manufacturers use each chemical for and the specific dangers they pose.

Hormone Problems, Obesity, and Behavioral Problems

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, bisphenols like BPA get used in manufacturing polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. You’ll find them in everything from disposable water bottles, the coating on canned foods, and even infant bottles. Widespread use of this dangerous chemical results in the substance leaching into the foods and beverages being consumed.

Work conducted by the National Toxicology Program tested the risks of exposure to bisphenols. Results show a risk of damage to the brain and prostate gland and behavioral issues in infants and children.

Thyroid Dysfunction and Brain Development

Perchlorate, a chemical many manufacturers use in food packaging, poses a significant danger to young children and infants. It inhibits the thyroid gland’s ability to produce the T4 hormone needed for proper brain development. Resulting in stunted intellectual development and lower IQ, this dangerous chemical is also present in tap water in some areas.

Recent work published by the National Institutes of Health shows that pregnant women exposed to perchlorate chemicals can have children with impaired intellectual development later in life.

Immunosuppression, Low Infant Birth Weight and Cancer

Your mom may have worried about the cholesterol problems that double cheeseburgers can cause. The EPA thinks the greaseproof paper it comes in may be even more dangerous. This is because many packaging materials like the paper around fast foods contain perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs).

Often called forever chemicals, PFCs accumulate in the human body without degrading. Over time, exposure to these harmful chemicals can cause serious health problems in children and adults. The EPA links PFC exposure to immune system depression, thyroid hormone disruption, and increased risk of cancer. Lab tests on animals produced tumors human studies show increased cholesterol levels and reduced infant birth weights.

How to Protect Your Family

The problem is ubiquitous. These chemicals are everywhere, but there are some things you can do to lower the risk to your family.

  • Buy and consume more fresh food, while eating less fast food and factory processed food.
  • Get a filter pitcher instead of buying bottled water.
  • Use less canned food, or buy fresh and can yourself in safe glass mason jars.
  • Do not microwave foods in plastic packaging containers or greaseproof paper.
  • Do not buy plastic containers with the numbers 3, 6, or 7 inside the triangle shape on the bottom. The numbers show the type of plastic the container is made of and the numbers 3, 6, and 7 indicate the presence of harmful BPA, PFC or phthalate chemicals.
  • Hand wash plastic containers instead of machine washing to reduce exposure. Heat can cause plastics to release chemicals, making it easier for them to get into your food.


The critical factor is reducing your family’s exposure to the materials containing these harmful chemicals. You can learn more about the dangers of food additives and chemicals by searching Food Additives and Child Health on the American Academy of Pediatrics website or asking your family pediatrician.

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