It’s enough that we have to worry about the chemicals they put into our food – but the wrappers could be every bit as deadly. Food wrappers are coated with non-stick and greaseproof agents – and now researchers have discovered they also contain dangerously high levels of fire retardant, which gets into the food.

The wrappers on one out of 10 samples of butter contained very high levels of the flame retardant compound, PBDE, which had made its way into the product. One sample had 135 times higher levels of PBDE, and 900 times the level of PBDE’s main component, deca-BDE, than the others.

PBDEs have also been detected in other high-fat foods, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products.

The fire retardant is commonly found in electronics, textiles, wire and cable insulation, and automobile and airplane components.

Although the EU banned all uses of deca-BDE in 2008, and US authorities plan to follow suit by 2014, researchers from the University of Texas School of Public Health say chemicals are in the environment, and can continue to be in components and stock for years after a ban has been imposed.

(Source: Environmental Health Perspectives, 2010; doi: 10.1289/ehp.1002604).

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