"We're not trying to create paranoia or anxiety, but I do think our findings are alarming," one of the study's authors, Ami Zota, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University, told The Washington Post. "It's not every day that you conduct a study where the results are this strong."
Zota later said it would be more appropriate to refer to the findings as "striking" instead of "alarming."
The study found that increased consumption of fast food results in higher amounts of potentially harmful chemicals, including phthalates -- an acid found in many products, including soaps, makeups, luggage and automobile interiors.
Phthalates, which make items softer and more flexible, are used in hundreds of consumer and industrial products that demand high performance, long-lasting wear and durability. They're also used in the process in which fast food is prepared. The more machinery, plastic, conveyor belts and various forms of processing equipment that food touches, the more likely the food is to contain higher levels of phthalates.
"There's a vast amount of scientific evidence suggesting certain phthalates can contribute to several adverse health effects," Zota said. "I really hope this study helps raise public awareness about the exposure problems associated with our industrialized food system."
But anything that's gone through some form of processing or industrial packaging is vulnerable, The Washington Post reported.
"It's not fair to say, 'Oh, these exposures only happen if you eat unhealthy foods,'" Leo Trasande, an associate professor of pediatrics, environmental medicine and population health at New York University, told Bloomberg.
Read more here and read the study here.