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That Fizzy Goodness In Texas May Be Linked To Cancer

Aug 18, 2007
It's sweet, refreshing and fizzy, but soda pop may be doing more damage to individuals who drink it in Houston, Dallas and elsewhere in Texas, than they may think.

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that it had found a high level of cancer-causing benzene in five of the 100 soft drinks and beverages that were tested. The levels of benzene were more than the recommended five-parts-per-billion limit for drinking water.

The FDA reported that it had alerted the companies that make the soft drinks in which benzene was discovered to be over the prescribed limit. The companies had agreed to reformulate their drinks or have already done so. The FDA also maintained that there was no cause for concern, even though some environmental groups expressed disappointment regarding the organization's recent findings.

The five soft drinks/beverages that had excess levels of benzene were:
- Safeway Select Diet Orange -- one lot was found to have 79.2 parts per billion of benzene
- AquaCal Strawberry Flavored Water Beverage -- one lot was found to have 23.4 parts per billion
- Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange -- one lot was found to have 87.9 parts per billion
- Giant Light Cranberry Juice Cocktail -- one lot was found to have 10.7 parts per billion
- Crush Pineapple -- one lot was found to have 9.2 parts per billion

Benzene in soft drinks has recently become an extremely sensitive matter. The chemical is formed as a result of a reaction between Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and either sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate, both of which are contained in soft drinks and beverages. However, the reaction doesn't always occur. It takes place as an exception when the conditions are ideal for this particular reaction.

Benzene is a chemical that is linked to cancer in humans. It is found in the air as a result of automobile emissions, burning coal and oil. It is also used extensively in industries which produce chemicals, dyes, detergents, synthetic fibers, solvents, rubber and some plastics.

Employees in the chemical industry, gas stations, gasoline distribution jobs, the rubber industry, and the printing and leather industries are also at a high risk, since they are constantly exposed to benzene.

Currently, the FDA doesn't have an upper limit for benzene in soft drinks. It follows the five parts per billion (ppb) limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water. The FDA's website states that benzene can cause harm at "very low levels." Information on the site adds that exposure to light can trigger the formation of benzene in the soft drinks.

The FDA conducted a food-testing program called the Total Diet Study, in which it tested 24 samples of diet soda for benzene. Approximately 79% (nineteen) of the soft drinks was found to have benzene above the permitted levels.

According to recent research carried out by Sheffield University in the UK, a preservative that is commonly found in soft drinks can cause essential parts of human DNA to stop working, leading to serious health problems. Earlier this year, British officials pulled soft drinks and juices that contained benzene from the shelves.

A nice cold soda on a hot day may seem like just the thing. But there are alternatives, like water and natural fruit juice. What you put in your body when you're young will certainly affect your health when you get older. Eventually, it will also affect your wallet as well.
About the Author
Pat Carpenter writes for Precedent Insurance Company. Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance. Learn more at Precedent.com
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