Eating out at restaurants and fast food chains may be convenient but a new study suggests it comes with risks, including increased exposure to a potentially harmful chemical called phthalates.

Researchers looked at data collected between 2005 and 2014 as part of the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and discovered that subjects who had recently eaten food from a fast food restaurant had levels of phthalates 35 percent higher than those who ate at home.

In total, the scientists examined the results of 10,253 participants. Sixty-one percent of the group replied in the survey that they had eaten out within the previous 24 hours, and the majority of those respondents showed an increased level of phthalate biomarkers when their urine was tested.

The results showed a strong association between phthalate exposure and dining out for all groups regardless of age or gender, but the strongest correlation was seen in young people, according to the researchers. Young children who frequently ate at fast food restaurants reported phthalates levels 55 percent higher than those who ate at home.

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