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Soda Drinks Contain Benzene - A Carcinogen, Reports FDA

Presence of benzene in the soft drinks is a sensitive subject these days. Vitamin C/ Ascorbic acid reacts with sodium/potassium benzoate from the soft drinks or beverages to form benzene. This reaction does not always take place but only under favorable circumstances.

Benzene, a chemical is carcinogenic in humans. Its presence in air is from automobile emissions, burning coal and oil. Benzene is used in the production of chemicals, dyes, detergents, synthetic fibers, solvents, rubber and some plastics. People who are exposed to benzene e.g. workers from chemical industry, gas stations, gasoline distribution jobs, rubber industry, printing industry and leather industry have an increased risk.

There is no upper limit set by FDA in soft drinks and it follows the level set by the US Environmental Protection Agency, i.e. 5 parts per billion (ppb). Benzene can be harmful at very low levels. Benzene gets formed in soft drinks when exposed to light.

An NGO Environmental Working Group criticized FDA for not giving a serious thought to the presence of benzene. Further more, its senior vice president Richard Wiles added that the presence of benzene in soda/juices was serious as reported by FDA. He added that the beverage industry should not add chemicals that produce the carcinogen benzene to sodas and juices.

It was only in the 1990s that FDA highlighted the presence of benzene in soft drinks. It conducted a food-testing program called the Total Diet Study between 1995 to 2000 during which it found that out of the 24 samples of diet soda that were studied for the benzene presence, 19 samples (79%) had higher levels of benzene.

According to Wiles, FDA should test soft drinks/juices by selecting a few samples from the racks - as was done by officials in Britain in the beginning of this year - and let the people know which of the products have more benzene and also indicate under which conditions is
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