WEDNESDAY, Aug. 31, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Chewing a handful of microwave popcorn might be perfect for movie night, but your snack could be dumping your body with potentially harmful “forever chemicals,” experts warn.
Many microwave popcorn bags are lined with PFAS (perfluoroalkyls and polyfluoroalkyls) and these chemicals have been shown to leach into the snack during popping.
Studies have found “high levels of these compounds in the blood of people who have regularly eaten microwave popcorn, allowing it to enter the bloodstream,” said Dr. David Heber, founding director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.
PFAS compounds are called eternal chemicals because they break down very slowly and accumulate in both the environment and the human body.
The chemicals are commonly found in drinking water supplies in the United States and can be found in the blood of 97% of US citizens, the federal government estimates.
“Drinking water has received a lot of attention, but food is also an important source of exposure, and studies have shown that consumption of microwave popcorn and fast food correlates with higher levels of PFAS in the body,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at the nonprofit Environment working group.
PFAS chemicals were originally developed in the 1950s as part of the nonstick coating of pans, Heber said.
Since then, they’ve been added to many consumer products, including cleaning solutions, waterproof makeup, firefighting foam, and stain-resistant coatings for carpets and upholstery.
Microwave popcorn makers add PFAS to the liner of the bags to keep the oil that pops the corn from escaping, Andrews said.
The PFAS also help keep the bag from burning, Heber said.
“You know, sometimes if you leave the popcorn in longer, you end up with blackened kernels that are burned?” Heber said. “Well, that’s hot enough to burn the paper too, so it protects the paper from a kitchen fire.”
But during the popping process, PFAS are leached into the popcorn, making the snack one of the most notorious means by which the chemicals enter the human body, Andrews said.