Government study finds toxins in PET bottles of five soft drink brands
A study commissioned by the government of India has detected five different kinds of toxins — heavy metals antimony, lead, chromium and cadmium and the compound DEHP or Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate — in soft drinks made by two multinational companies, PepsiCo and Coca Cola.
The study, commissioned by the health ministry body Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), found that these toxins leached into five cold drink samples from the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles they were in. These samples were of Pepsi, Coca Cola, Mountain Dew, Sprite and 7Up. Mountain Dew and 7Up are owned by Pepsico, while Sprite is owned by Coca Cola.
Under the DTAB’s instructions, the study was conducted by the Kolkata-based All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health (AIIH&PH), which comes under the health ministry.
While there are no permissible limits for heavy metals in cold drinks, the tests found 0.029 milligrams per litre (mg/L), 0.011 mg/L, 0.002 mg/L, 0.017 mg/L and 0.028 mg/L of antimony, lead, cadmium, chromium and DEHP, respectively, in Pepsi. In Coca Cola, 0.006 mg/L, 0.009 mg/L, 0.011 mg/L, 0.026 mg/L and 0.026 mg/L of the aforesaid heavy metals, respectively, were found. The results were similar for Sprite, Mountain Dew and 7Up.
The leaching of these heavy metals — from the PET bottles in which the drinks were packaged — increased with the rise in room temperature. For example, at normal room temperature, the tests found 0.004 mg/L and 0.007 mg/L of lead in 7Up and Sprite, respectively. However, when it was kept at 40 degree Celsius for 10 days, the lead increased to 0.006 mg/L and 0.009 mg/L, respectively.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers lead and cadmium two of the top ten chemicals of ‘major public health concern’. “Lead can have serious consequences for the health of children. At high levels of exposure, lead attacks the brain and central nervous system to cause coma, convulsions and even death. Children who survive severe lead poisoning may be left with mental retardation and behavioural disorders,” the WHO has noted.
For cadmium, the WHO said, “Cadmium exerts toxic effects on the kidney, the skeletal system and the respiratory system and is classified as a human carcinogen.”