Boxed macaroni and cheese is often a favorite food among youngsters, but a recent study suggests the packaged food contains dangerous, endocrine-disrupting chemicals that have been banned in toys: phthalates.

Phthalates are a group of toxic additives in plastics. They’re used to make plastics soft and flexible, and are commonly found in artificial fragrances, inks, coatings, adhesives, and other consumer and industrial products, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) explains.

These chemicals are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in equipment and materials for food handling, processing, and packaging. Because of this, phthalates often wind up in high-fat, highly-processed foods.

Once you consume phthalates, they can travel through your bloodstream to your organs. Prenatal phthalate exposure is especially concerning, since the chemicals can easily cross from the mother’s body into the placenta. Phthalates can also wind up in breast milk.

Researchers have linked prenatal phthalate exposure to impaired neurological development in children, lower IQ, learning and memory impairment, and antisocial behavior. Boys that are exposed to phthalates in-utero run the risk of genital defects.


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