Islamabad - Eating fast food exposes people to higher levels of potentially noxious chemicals known as phthalates, says a research.

Phthalates can leach into processed food from packaging.

Phthalates come from a class of industrial chemicals that are used to make food packaging materials and other items involved in the manufacture of fast food and dairy produce.

Previous studies have suggested that these chemicals leach out of plastic food packaging, causing contamination of highly processed foods. Researchers at Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University in Washington, DC, led by Ami Zota, are among the first to investigate the relationship between fast-food consumption and exposure to the chemicals.

Zota and coauthors examined data for 8,877 participants. To gather the information, they distributed a questionnaire and collected a urinary sample for each respondent.

The subjects answered detailed questions on what food they had eaten, including fast food, in the last 24 hours. The researchers tested the urinary samples to see if they contained the breakdown products of two phthalates: di-isononyl phthalate (DiNP) and di-2-ethylhexylphlatate (DEHP). Findings showed that the more fast food an individual reported eating, the higher their exposure to phthalates.

Compared with those who had not consumed fast food, the urine of participants who ate the most fast food had 23.8% higher levels of the breakdown product for DEHP, and the levels of DiNP metabolites were 40% higher.

Meat items and grain-based foods, such as bread, cake, pizza, burritos, rice dishes and noodles, appeared to contribute the most significantly to phthalate exposure, supporting previous findings that grains are an important source of phthalate exposure.

Another chemical used in plastic food packaging, Bisphenol A (BPA), has been linked with health and behavioral problems, especially among young children. Zota’s team also looked for signs of BPA among their participants.

The team found no association between total fast-food intake and BPA, but those who consumed fast-food meat products had higher BPA levels than those who had not eaten fast food.

Vaccine switched in ‘milestone’

towards ending polio

More than 150 countries have begun switching to a different polio vaccine - an important milestone towards polio eradication, health campaigners say. The new vaccine will target the two remaining strains of the virus under a switchover 18 months in the planning.

There were just 74 cases of the paralysing disease in 2015 and there have been 10 so far this year. All of the cases were in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Africa has been free of polio for more than a year.

Switching the vaccine from one successfully used to fight polio for more than 30 years is a huge logistical exercise.

Thousands of people will monitor the changeover in 155 countries during the next fortnight.

It is taking effect mainly in developing countries, but also in richer ones such as Russia and Mexico.

The new vaccine will still be given as drops in the mouth, so healthcare workers will not need fresh training. It will no longer include a weakened version of type 2 polio virus, which was eradicated in 1999.

Dr Stephen Cochi, from the US-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC), said: “The current vaccine contains live weakened virus relating to three types of polio. But we don’t need the type 2 component, as it’s not in the world any longer.

“And in very rare cases it can mutate and lead to polio, through what’s called circulating vaccine-derived virus. So removing type 2 from the vaccine takes away that risk - and ensures we have a vaccine which will work better dose by dose.”