Watch Out for Chemical Additives!

AmandaArticle Author: Amanda Thompson, Biology Major, Class of 2023, POB Science Translator

As we share the conversation about chemicals of concern in our everyday products, it is important to be aware of all relevant aspects of this important issue, including those which may increase the level of toxins in the body. In September of 2020, a group of health, environmental, and consumer organizations approached the FDA with concerns about food additive safety and chemical accumulation in the human body. While Congress has a law in place that requires the FDA to view chemical usage as a whole, it does not consider the cumulative effects of chemical buildup in bodily systems.

Regardless of how harmful each individual chemical is to our bodies in small amounts, further problems arise from the accumulation and consistent intake of these agents throughout the day, weeks, and years. With this increased body burden, we become more susceptible to negative health effects in the future and it becomes ever more important to factor in additional synthetic exposures that extend beyond the food we eat, including from air, dust, cleaning products, beauty products, and packaging. 

In addition, additives may play an important and significant role in increased risk for negative health effects. According to a recent study on the frequently used dietary emulsifier, polysorbate 80 (p80), food additives can make the body more permeable to EDC (endocrine-disrupting chemical) absorbance, which are the chemicals that directly affect our endocrine system. Specifically in the experiment, p80 was shown to encourage the absorption of MEHP-AF, a type of phthalate and metabolite of one of the main EDCs that we are exposed to in food packaging – diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP). 

Research shows that EDCs interference with the endocrine system can disrupt the regulation of hormones and their roles in the body leading to fertility issues, early puberty, respiratory issues, diabetes, as well as issues within the nervous system, respiratory system, metabolic system, and cardiovascular system.  Furthermore, studies have shown there to be a direct correlation between EDC exposure and increased risk of breast cancer. According to Lisette van Vliet, the Senior Policy Coordinator for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, “Over 275,000 women are or will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year in the US, and most cases have nothing to do with family history. Science has shown that our exposure to toxic chemicals plays a big role (in the development of breast cancer)” (2020, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners).

While the regulations continue to advance for our protection, it is vital to look out for additives, such as sodium nitrate, sulfites, azodicarbonamide, potassium bromide, propyl gallate, and butane.


Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. (2020, September 23). FDA Food Chemical Safety Process Leaves   Consumers at Risk of Chronic Diseases [Press release]. Retrieved from 2021. “50 Jawdroppingly Toxic Food Ingredients & Artificial Additives to Avoid.” 2021, Public Health Analysis, 
Zhu, Yu-Ting et al. “Food emulsifier polysorbate 80 promotes the intestinal absorption of mono-2-ethylhexyl phthalate by disturbing intestinal barrier.” Toxicology and applied pharmacology vol. 414 (2021): 115411. doi:10.1016/j.taap.2021.115411. 

Disclaimer: The information provided herein is the author’s opinion. Our authors are not scientists. We are not providing medical advice, but simply sharing publicly available information. When we reference data and databases, we do so with the caveat that most are only as good as the data they are based on. While POB strives to make the information as timely and accurate as possible, we make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the completeness, or adequacy of the contents of any site that is shared, and expressly disclaims liability for errors and omissions in the contents of these sites.  POB goes to great lengths to avoid declaring shared products as “safe” as there is no legal definition of the word “safe” at this time.

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