(HealthDay News) — People with high intake of fast food may have levels of phthalates in their urine that are 24% to 40% higher than people who rarely eat fast food, according to research published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Ami Zota, ScD, assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health in Washington, D.C., and colleagues reviewed data on 8877 people participating in a regular survey on health and nutrition conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The participants all had answered detailed questions about their diet in the past 24 hours, including consumption of fast food, and provided a urine sample that could be tested for signs of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthalate (DiNP).

Dr Zota and her team found that the more fast food participants in the study ate, the higher their exposure to phthalates. People with the highest consumption of fast food had 24% higher levels of the breakdown product for DEHP in their urine sample. Those same fast-food consumers had nearly 40% higher levels of DiNP byproducts in their urine compared with people who reported no fast food in the 24 hours prior to the testing. Grains and meats most significantly contributed to phthalate exposure.

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The US Congress has permanently banned the use of DEHP in children’s toys, baby bottles, and soothers, and it has temporarily banned DiNP for the same uses, according to the Environmental Working Group. The bans are based on concerns that phthalates can affect the development of the male reproductive system, Dr Zota told HealthDay. The chemicals also have been implicated in birth defects, childhood behavioral problems, and childhood chronic illnesses, such as asthma.


  1. Zota AR, Phillips CA, Mitro SD. Recent Fast Food Consumption and Bisphenol A and Phthalates Exposures among the U.S. Population in NHANES, 2003–2010. Environ Health Perspect. 2016. doi:10.1289/ehp.1510803.