Govern­ment study finds tox­ins in PET bot­tles of five soft drink brands

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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.”

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