Before you slather those slices of bread with peanut butter, carefully lay strips of filet over them, and maybe top it all with a little smoked salmon, — hey, no judgment — consider the possible possibility that each one of those foodstuffs is teeming with flame retardant used in foam installation called hexabromocyclododecane, or HBCD for people who just don't have the time or lack an essential interest in Greek roots.
According to a new study from researchers at the University of Texas School of Public Health, fatty, protein-rich foods such as peanut butter, cold cuts, turkey, fish, and beef are just the processed foods to contain trace amounts of HBCD, which the EPA describes as "highly toxic" to marine life capable of disrupting human hormones and reproduction. Meanwhile, Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the Environmental Working Group, revealed that HBCD has been discovered in umbilical cord blood, a particularly troubling development in the gross-things-we-find-in-food saga because fetuses are particularly vulnerable to harmful chemicals.
A few things to note about this study before you donate all your peanut butter to the top of your dog's nose and watch as it vainly tries to lick it off: researchers purchased all this HBCD-riddled food in Dallas-area grocery stores between 2009 and 2010, HBCD levels were well below what the government considers dangerous (but the government also tried to turn pizza into a vegetable, so...), and brands labeled organic weren't tested.
Lunder, though, still worries that the presence of even small amounts of HBCD is troubling when one considers how many other chemicals (mercury, dioxin, and other sundry flame retardants) we're exposed to during our grocery store perambulations. She believes that these chemicals aren't acting independently — they're harming our insides like an insidious symphony of organic decay. Over a long enough period of time, HBCDs can accumulate and become attracted to a person's fat cells in much the same way as it was attracted to the fat in meat and nuts. Nestled in a bed of human fat, HBCD can loaf around for years.
Researchers recommend — and this is going to shock everyone — that people forgo fatty foods in favor of fruits and vegetables. Has science, in issuing this nuanced warning, found another way to subtly concern-shame people into eating their greens? That would be a dastardly stratagem, but, for my own part, I couldn't stop eating peanut butter if every jar contained dozens of sewing needles, so, real or not, this health warning is useless to me.
Image via Dejan Stanisavljevic/Shutterstock.