How Does Benzene Get Into a Mere Soda Can?

soft drinks

Researchers have found some disturbing facts that along with high sugar levels, artificial flavorings, and calcium-reducing fizz, some soft drinks even contain the highly toxic substance benzene – sometimes at alarming levels. In a study related to benzene contamination, it is found that the highest level of benzene, i.e, 23micrograms/L was contained in a soft drink product specially marketed to children. 

Cars release benzene with its fumes. Above gas stations benzene invisibly lingers in a thick, intractable haze. Factories release benzene during the production of some plastics, chemicals, dyes, and detergents. A pollutant and a toxin, it is not surprising that benzene causes some severe adverse effects on account of your health. The air of such work establishments has reportedly infected employees.


What Is Benzene?

Benzene is a highly inflammable and colorless liquid that is a natural part of crude oil. It has a characteristic aromatic odour. Human activities such as cigarette smoking and vehicle emissions causes the presence of benzene in our environment. It may also be released naturally from volcanoes and forest fires, to a lesser extent.

In addition, benzene is commercially produced to make other chemicals, detergents, dyes and some plastics. Due to this presence of benzene in our environment, it may also contaminate our food and water.


How Does Benzene Get Into Some Soft Drinks?

Many soft drinks contain benzoate salts and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). which are the ingredients in most fruit based drinks available in the market. A high percentage of soda manufacturers use them as preservative agents to prevent the growth of bacteria, yeast and other harmful microbes or as nutritional additions. Benzoic acid and its salts are naturally present in some fruits like prunes, plums and most berries. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is a well-known antioxidant and is naturally present in a variety of fruits and vegetables. 

The presence of ascorbic acid, benzoic acid or its salts in soft drinks does not necessa rily affect in the formation of benzene. Many factors like exposure to high temperature AND UV light, pH, presence of certain minerals and sweeteners etc. may affect the benzene formation. However, when benzoate salts and Vitamin C come in contact with high levels of light and/heat or other factors , there is a strong chance of occurring a chemical reaction. Benzene is formed as the by-product of this process.

Is Benzene Contamination Preventable?

No one can be sure of conditions in every production unit, storage warehouse or every transported shipment. Once created, benzene permanently remains. Even the most impeccable treatment and care cannot erase existing damage.

While the presence of any amount of benzene is unsettling, the FDA determined that levels must not exceed 5 ppb in order to pose a threat. Nonetheless, thousands of bottles and cans are never untested. Benzene contamination in soft drinks affect individuals in varying levels. Some people are more sensitive than others.

In 1990 soft drink companies altered their production methods in the hope of preventing benzene development. Nevertheless, from 2005 to 2006 the FDA found benzene amounts well above 5 ppb in some products. Furthermore, the experiment proved highly inadequate. Covering only a small percentage of the country, the study also did not include all products or brands.

Are there any preventive strategies?

Besides just unhealthy, some foods may actually contain toxic elements. As a preventive strategy, people can maintain healthy diets with foods low in fat, sugar and salt and high in fiber. 

Deciding to consume only foods without artificial sugars, dyes, and preservatives lower the chances of unwanted chemicals entering into our body system. 

However, while healthy and natural foods prove best, people are not always given a choice because of the wide range of adulteration taking place in the market. The FDA still confirms that benzene still appears in some soft drinks. 


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Determination of benzene in soft drinks and other beverages by isotope dilution headspace gas chromatography/mass spectrometry       Xu-Liang Cao 1, Valerie Casey, Steve Seaman, Brett Tague, Adam Becalski




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