America: the land of the never ending barbecue. Every year, the average American chows down on over 200 pounds of meat – about triple the global average; altogether that adds up to about 85 billion pounds of hotdogs, chicken wings, pork chops and burgers eaten every year
across the U.S. And it’s not just that Americans consume an egregious quantity of meat, which leads to all sorts of complications like obesity heart disease and diabetes, the Land of the Free is also the Home that Loves Fast Food. According to a Gallup poll, just 4% of Americans never eat fast food, and an estimated 34% of U.S. children eat fast food at least once a day.
Fast food obviously isn’t great for your health, but a new study from the Silent Spring Institute is providing even more incentive to cut back on those burgers and fries. The study, published Wednesday in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, found that a lot of the grease-proof packaging that fast food joints use contains potentially harmful polyfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs). PFCs have been linked to a variety of health risks including “cancer, thyroid disease, immune suppression, low birth weight, and decreased fertility,” and can leach from packaging to food.
The study found that about half of all paper wrappers and 20% of paperboard packaging contained the potentially harmful chemicals. The lead author of the report, Laurel Schaider, explained that “children are especially at risk for health effects because their developing bodies are more vulnerable to toxic chemicals.”
Unfortunately, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that Americans, and specifically American children, eat a lot fast food: Adults get just over 11% of their daily calorie intake from fast food, while kids get about 12.5% of their daily calories from fast food. The data also shows that fast food consumption is pretty even across all income levels, with rich and poor indulging equally in greasy delights. So, consumption of unhealthy food seems to be one of the few places where we have equality in the U.S.
If you need a bit more incentive to cut down on your fast food meat consumption, you can always remember the environment. There’s some pretty solid arguments that such high levels of meat consumption are detrimental to our planet: The livestock sector is estimated to release about 15% of global emissions, more than all the world’s cars, trucks, trains, ships, and airplanes. Even Arnold Swarchenegger has a video entitled “Less meat, less heat, more life.”