Benzene in soft drinks | Wikipedia audio article

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Benzene in soft drinks is of potential concern
due to the carcinogenic nature of the benzene molecule. This contamination is a public health concern
and has caused significant outcry among environmental and health advocates. Benzene levels are regulated in drinking water
nationally and internationally, and in bottled water in the United States, but only informally
in soft drinks. The benzene forms from decarboxylation of
the preservative benzoic acid in the presence of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and metal ions
(iron and copper) that act as catalysts, especially under heat and light.==Formation in soft drinks==
The major cause of benzene in soft drinks is the decarboxylation of benzoic acid in
the presence of ascorbic acid (vitamin C, E300) or erythorbic acid (a diastereomer of
ascorbic acid, E315). Benzoic acid is often added to drinks as a
preservative in the form of its salts sodium benzoate (E211), potassium benzoate (E 212),
or calcium benzoate (E 213). Citric acid is not thought to induce significant
benzene production in combination with benzoic acid, but some evidence suggests that in the
presence of ascorbic or erythorbic acid and benzoic acid, citric acid may accelerate the
production of benzene.The proposed mechanism begins with hydrogen abstraction by the hydroxyl
radical, which itself is produced by the Cu2+-catalysed reduction of dioxygen by ascorbic acid:
Other factors that affect the formation of benzene are heat and light. Storing soft drinks in warm conditions speeds
up the formation of benzene. Calcium disodium EDTA and sugars have been
shown to inhibit benzene production in soft drinks.The International Council of Beverages
Associations (ICBA) has produced advice to prevent or minimize benzene formation.==Limit standards in drinking water==
Various authorities have set limits on benzene content in drinking water. The following limits are given in parts per
billion (ppb; μg/kg). World Health Organization (WHO): 10 ppb (WHO
notes that benzene should be avoided whenever technically feasible.) Republic of Korea (South Korea): 10 ppb
Canada: 5 ppb United States: 5 ppb
European Union: 1 ppb State limits within the United States: California,
Connecticut, New Jersey, and Florida: 1 ppbThe EPA and California have set public health
goals for benzene of 0 ppb and 0.15 ppb.==Environmental exposure to benzene==Benzene in soft drinks has to be seen in the
context of other environmental exposure. Taking the worst example found to date of
a soft drink containing 87.9 ppb benzene, someone drinking a 350 ml (12 oz) can would
ingest 31 μg (micrograms) of benzene, almost equivalent to the benzene inhaled by a motorist
refilling a fuel tank for three minutes. While there are alternatives to using sodium
benzoate as a preservative, the casual consumption of such a drink is unlikely to pose a significant
health hazard to a particular individual (see, for example, the EPA IRIS document on benzene). The UK Food Standards Agency has stated that
people would need to drink at least 20 litres (5.5 gal) per day of a drink containing benzene
at 10 μg to equal the amount of benzene they would breathe from city air every day. Daily personal exposure to benzene is determined
by adding exposure from all sources. Air: A European study found that people breathe
in 220 μg of benzene every day due to general atmospheric pollution. A motorist refilling a fuel tank for three
minutes would inhale a further 32 μg. The estimated daily exposure from “automobile-related
activities” is 49 μg and for driving for one hour is 40 μg. Smoking: For smokers, cigarette smoking is
the main source of exposure to benzene. Estimates are 7900 μg per day (smoking 20
cigarettes per day), 1820 μg/day, and 1800 µg/day. Passive smoking: Benzene intake from passive
smoking is estimated at 63 μg/day (Canada) and 50 µg/day. Diet and drinking water: 0.2 to 3.1 μg per
In 1990, a study reported having found benzene in bottles of Perrier for sale in the United
States, resulting in a voluntary product recall.In the early 1990s, the soft drink industry initially
approached FDA with concerns about benzene formation in soft drinks. Following testing, FDA asked manufacturers
to voluntarily reformulate. By 1993, FDA determined that most drinks had
little benzene contamination.In 1993, research showed how benzene can form from benzoic acid
in the presence of vitamin C.In the summer of 1998, a number of well known soft drinks
manufacturers had to withdraw large quantities of their products from sale after benzene
contamination in some production plants was discovered.===2005===
In November 2005, the FDA received test results conducted by private citizens that benzene
was forming at low levels in several types of beverages.In December 2005, Germany’s Federal
Institute for Risk Assessment (Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung) published a review of
benzene’s possible formation in foods and drinks.===2006===
In February 2006, an unnamed former chemist at the FDA publicly revealed that benzene
may be created as part of a chemical reaction during production of soft drinks, particularly
those having an orange flavor. Full-scale investigations immediately started
at the Food Standards Agency (UK) and in Germany to reveal exactly which amounts of benzene,
if any, were present, with several other organizations awaiting their findings.The United Kingdom’s
Food Standards Agency released results on March 31, 2006 for 150 beverages. Its results showed 43 beverages contained
benzene, four of which contained levels above the World Health Organization drinking water
standards (10 ppb). These four were withdrawn from sale.In April
2006, the Korea Food & Drug Administration (KFDA) announced that it had detected benzene
in 27 out of 30 (90%) vitamin-enriched drinks on sale in South Korea. It said the detected amount of benzene – ranging
from 5.7 to 87.8 ppb – was not harmful to humans but advised manufacturers of beverages
containing more than 10 ppb of benzene to voluntarily recall their products.The FDA
released preliminary results in May 2006 for 100 beverages showing that many soft drinks
contained low levels of benzene (less than 5 ppb, the federal drinking water limit) while
four drinks contained amounts above the standard. Two of these drinks contained amounts 15-18
times above the drinking water standard. Many of the products showed large variations
in the amount of benzene they contained. The FDA stated that it is working with manufacturers
to reformulate products that contain benzene above the federal drinking water standard. These test results are both lower and more
accurate than a previous long-term study by the FDA. In the Total Diet Study that FDA conducted
from 1996 – 2001 to determine the amounts of volatile organic compounds in various foods,
FDA used an analytical procedure that caused more benzene to form in the drinks during
the test.The FDA emphasized that most beverages contain levels below 5 ppb and pose no risk
to consumers. Furthermore, there are no standards for beverages
beyond drinking and bottled water. A watchdog organization, the Environmental
Working Group, had previously called on the FDA to release its results. The EWG also criticized the FDA for not acting
on the Total Diet Study results showing the nearly 80% of the diet soft drinks exceeded
the federal drinking water standards. On 9 June 2006, Health Canada released its
study results of benzene levels in beverages. Four products out of 118 had levels above
the Canadian guideline of five micrograms per liter for benzene in drinking water (average
range 6.0 to 23.0 µg/L). The follow up study the next year found only
three samples with marginally higher levels and concluded the average levels were quite
low.On 24 August 2006, two soft drink manufacturers agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit that
had been filed by a group of parents in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The two companies, Zone Brands Inc., maker
of “BellyWashers” products, and TalkingRain Beverage Co., denied that their products were
harmful, but agreed to change the ingredients in their drinks.===2008===
Coca-Cola announced that it would be phasing out sodium benzoate from many of its drinks,
but not Fanta and Sprite. As of August 2012, Coca Cola Zero and Barq’s
root beer still contains benzoate (added as potassium salt and sodium salt respectively).A
Belgian study found that plastic packaging may play an important role in the formation
of benzene in soft drinks

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