Study reveals restaurant meals can expose you to harmful chemicals

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Dining out a lot is not only bad for your wallet. A new study out of UC Berkeley says it may raise your risk of exposure to a toxic chemical.

The Bay Area is a foodie paradise -- good eats, great restaurants, and diners who know their stuff.

But they may not know about research that suggests every time they eat out, they may be exposed to chemicals linked to all kinds of physical problems.

Julia Varshavsky is co-author of the study. She says these chemicals are "associated with pregnancy complications and also infertility and child developmental outcomes."

She's not just talking about fast food. The research finds a heightened risk across the board.

Varshavsky says it's not from what's in the food. It's what the food comes in.

"People who dine out had nearly 35 percent higher pthalate levels in their bodies than people who eat more at home. "

Pthalates are a family of chemicals often found in the packaging food comes in, mainly plastics. They can alter hormones that affect reproduction, meaning the greatest risk is for pregnant women and the very young.

It may also raise the risk of cancer. We asked the lunchtime crowd on the streets of Berkeley what they thought.

Philip Burkart said, "I fall into that category of guys or persons who's young and thinks they're invincible. I'm sure in 20 years I'm going to be paying for it."

Jared Smith told us, "I try to look at any restaurant I'm eating at and get a sense of where they're sourcing from."

Debra Starks said, "Nowadays, everything, they say, causes cancer."

There is a solution. But it's not completely give up restaurant eating.

Instead, Varshovsky says change the packaging. "If you did remove pthalates from the food supply, you would see an immediate reduction in the food supply."

And maybe an increase in your health.
Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.