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Carcinogen found in soft drinks

3rd February 2006

04032006_Softdrink1.jpgTraces of benzene, a cancer-causing chemical, have been found in British soft drinks.

Benzene levels are limited to one part per billion in UK water but have been found at eight times this level in some products. The brands concerned have not been revealed; however, there are currently no UK restrictions on the amount of the chemical permitted in soft drinks.

Benzene is thought to be formed when the preservative sodium benzoate is mixed with ascorbic acid - more commonly known as Vitamin C. The chemical has been linked to leukaemia and other cancers of the blood.
 
The Food Standards Agency watchdog says there is no immediate health risk, but questions need answering. The results came in industry tests prompted by the FSA after the chemical was found in tests on drinks in the US. But experts and consumer groups are asking why the two chemicals are still present in so many drinks.

Benzene is also found in pollutants such as car exhaust fumes. Those living in urban areas consumed, on average, 400 micrograms of benzene from exhaust fumes in a normal day. This would be the equivalent to consuming 40 litres of a soft drink containing benzene at just over the World Health Organization guideline level of 10 parts per billion.

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