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Health And Medical

With PFAS in Packaging, How Safe Is Microwave Popcorn?

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 31, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Munching handfuls of microwave popcorn may be ideal for movie night, however your snack could possibly be loading the body with potentially harmful “forever chemicals,” experts warn.

Many microwave popcorn bags are lined with PFAS (perfluoroalkyls and polyfluoroalkyl substances), and evidence shows these chemicals will leach in to the snack during popping.

Studies have discovered “high degrees of these compounds in the blood of individuals who ate microwave popcorn regularly, so that it does enter the bloodstream,” said Dr. David Heber, founding director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.

PFAS compounds are called forever chemicals since they breakdown very slowly, accumulating both in the surroundings and within human bodies.

The chemicals are generally within drinking water supplies through the entire United States, and may be within the blood of 97% of U.S. residents, the government estimates.

“There has been lots of attention on normal water, but food can be a major way to obtain exposure and studies show that consuming microwave popcorn and junk food is correlated with higher PFAS levels in your body,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group.

PFAS chemicals originally were developed in the 1950s within the nonstick coating of pans, Heber said.

They’ve since been put into many consumer products, including cleaning solutions, waterproof makeup, firefighting foam and stain-resistant coatings for carpets and upholstery.

Microwave popcorn manufacturers add PFAS to the liner of the bags to help keep the oil that pops the corn from soaking out, Andrews said.

The PFAS also help to keep the bag from burning, Heber said.

“You understand sometimes in the event that you leave the popcorn in considerably longer, you’ll end up getting blackened kernels which have burned?” Heber said. “Well, that’s hot enough to also burn the paper, which means this protects the paper from starting a fire in your kitchen.”

But through the popping process, PFAS leach in to the popcorn, making the snack probably the most notorious means where the chemicals enter human bodies, Andrews said.


“This is really among the first product types that the FDA did testing on” to check on for the current presence of PFAS, around 15 years back, Andrews said.

A 2019 study discovered that individuals who regularly ate microwave popcorn tended to possess significantly higher blood PFAS levels, predicated on ten years of data concerning the eating habits greater than 10,500 people gathered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Individuals who noshed popcorn daily had PFAS levels around 63% greater than average, in accordance with results published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives .

Concern is mounting on the potential health ramifications of PFAS on humans. For instance, PFAS chemicals may actually impact the disease fighting capability, “so that they decrease the effectiveness of vaccines,” Andrews said.

High degrees of PFAS in your body are also linked with increased cholesterol levels, small decreases in infant birth weights, changes in liver enzymes, preeclampsia in women that are pregnant, and an elevated threat of kidney or testicular cancer, based on the U.S. Agency for TOXINS and Disease Registry.

It’s possible for microwave popcorn bags to be produced without PFAS or other such chemicals, Andrews said.

Andrews pointed to Denmark for example. The nations largest grocer, Coop Denmark, announced back 2015 it could no more sell microwave popcorn due to PFAS in the packaging.

But months later, microwave popcorn returned to Denmark’s store shelves, because of new bags created from tougher paper.

“They just changed what sort of actual paper was manufactured, to supply enough resistance to are a microwave popcorn bag without chemical additives,” Andrews said.

The newest public testing found PFAS generally in most or all the brands of microwave popcorn sold in the U.S., Andrews said.

THE BUYER Brands Association, a food industry trade group, didn’t react to a obtain comment.

Until companies announce updated packaging, people concerned about PFAS should either purchase a heat popper or pop their very own popcorn on the stove, Heber and Andrews said.


“Only a pan or perhaps a pot with a small amount of oil on the stove will continue to work,” Andrews said. “That’s how I really do it all enough time. It’s a good way in order to avoid the potential PFAS exposure.”

More info

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about PFAS exposure.

SOURCES: David Heber, MD, PhD, founding director, UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, LA; David Andrews, PhD, senior scientist, Environmental Working Group, Environmental Health Perspectives, Oct. 9, 2019

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