According to a sample of 100 drinks, the FDA found that 5 had benzene levels over the 5 parts per billion limit set for drinking water. In fact, one of them, Safeway Select Diet Orange, had 79 parts per billion. Human consumption of benzene is linked to a higher risk of developing leukaemia.

The drinks that exceeded the limit of 5 parts per billion were:

— AquaCal Strawberry Flavored Water Beverage
— Crush Pineapple
— Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange
— Giant Light Cranberry Juice Cocktail
— Safeway Select Diet Orange

If a soft drink contains Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) plus either sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate, benzene can form in it when exposed to heat and/or light.

The FDA says it has informed the companies of the five drinks. Some have reformulated the drinks, while others say they will do so. Officials say people should not be concerned about their safety. However, several groups disagree.

The FDA says that even though the levels found in those five drinks are higher than the limits for drinking water, it is likely to be occasional exposure, not chronic exposure. The amount of benzene a human may consume in a soda is tiny when compared to what we are exposed to in our every day environment.

Others disagree, saying that it is not a question of comparison, it is a question of accumulation. Consumption of benzene in a soda does not immediately eliminate any exposure in the environment, it is added to it. The more little bits we consume here and there, the higher our intake is going to be.

If 5% of drinks from a sample of 100 were found to be over the limit, how many drinks are there in the market with high benzene levels. Why not test every single soft drink there is and find out – why just 100?

What is Benzene? Why is it a health risk?

Benzene is widely used in a range of products, it is a clear liquid which has a sweet smell. Most of us are exposed to benzene in some form in our every day lives. The Environmental Protection Agency, USA, classifies it as a Class A carcinogenic.

Benzene also exists naturally in the environment. However, its threat to human health lies is its presence in manmade products and environments.

Benzene is linked to a higher risk of developing AML leukaemia.

Benzene can be found in:

— detergents
— dyes
— plastics
— resins
— rubber
— solvents
— synthetic fibers
— within the petroleum industry
— many other manmade products

People who work with petroleum-based solvents have to be particularly careful as they may inhale benzene vapors and seriously raise their chances of developing AML leukaemia.

The following people are classed as high risk for benzene exposure:

— chemical workers
— gas station workers
— gasoline distributors
— leather workers
— painters
— press workers
— printing industry workers
— refinery workers
— rubber workers

As well as being linked to many health disorders, respiratory and skin problems, blood disorders, high benzene exposure is linked to the following cancers:

— ALL (acute lymphocytic leukemia)
— AML (acute myelogenous leukaemia)
— CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia)
— CML chronic myelogenous leukemia)
— HCL (hairy cell leukemia)
— Hodgkin’s disease
— MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome)
Multiple myeloma
— NHL (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma)

Bear in mind that the benzene health threat associated with the jobs mentioned here are much higher than in the five sodas.

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today