In a new study published online on July 23, 2013 in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Environmental International, researchers from Exeter University linked chemical burden of substances including food contact materials (FCM) not only to poverty, but also to wealth (Tyrell et al. 2013). Tyrell and colleagues analyzed 5 datasets from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2010 for associations between socioeconomic status and 179 environmental toxicant concentrations. 18 chemicals, comprising also 4 chemicals known to be used in food packaging, were found to correlate with the poverty income ratio (PIR) in more than three datasets. Roughly half of the chemicals, including 3 FCM substances, namely perfluorooctanoioc acid (PFOA, CAS # 335-67-1), mono(carboxyoctyl)phthalate (MCOP, CAS # NA) and benzophenone-3 (BP-3, CAS # 131-57-7), were present at higher levels in wealthier individuals. Bisphenol A (BPA, CAS # 80-05-7) levels, on the contrary, were negatively associated with socioeconomic status. PFOA is used as non-stick coating for FCMs, MCOP is a metabolite of plasticizers used in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) food packaging and BP-3 is used as a UV-absorber in plastics. BPA is contained in polycarbonate (PC) plastics and epoxy resins used to line aluminum cans and the lids of glass containers.
In an article published on August 2, 2013 by the British daily newspaper The Telegraph, science correspondent Richard Gray points out that usually those at the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder are considered particularly burdened by chemical exposures. However, Jessica Tyrell, lead author of the study, stresses in The Telegraph that the findings suggest “that we should look at everyone not just poorer individuals.”
Tyrell, J. et al. (2013). “Associations between socioeconomic status and environmental toxicant concentrations in adults in the USA: NANES 2001-2010.” Environmental International 59, 328-335.