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Benzene Exposure Can Cause Leukemia

Benzene Found in Soft Drinks

WASHINGTON, DC -- March 27, 2006 -- Several soft drink brands contain from 2 to 20 parts per billion of the cancer-causing chemical benzene, according to an ongoing investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The legal limit for benzene in drinking water is 5 parts per billion, but the FDA has never set a benzene limit for soft drinks. The agency recently began checking sodas for benzene after an industry whistleblower made the results of independent testing for benzene levels public.

Benzene forms in soda when ascorbic acid (vitamin C) combines with either the preservative sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate. An internal FDA memo shows that both the agency and the soft drink industry knew about this problem as early as 1991. An FDA researcher, Glen Lawrence, performed tests on soft drinks in 1993, confirmed that benzene was formed, and published his results in a major journal (Agric. Food Chem.; 1993; 41(5): 693-695). At that time, the FDA decided to let the soft drink industry voluntarily reformulate their products to eliminate benzene residues, according to BeverageDaily, a trade publication. The FDA made no public announcement about benzene levels at that time.

Since 2002, over 1,500 soft drinks containing both benzoate and ascorbic acid have been launched throughout Europe and North America (The Benzene Trail, BeverageDaily, March 6, 2006). In the UK, the government Food Standards Agency is conducting its own investigation of benzene levels in soft drinks. Soft drink industry testing found benzene levels well over 1 part per billion, the legal limit for benzene in drinking water in the UK.

The Hazards of Benzene

Long-term benzene exposure can cause leukemia, a cancer of the blood-forming organs. Benzene exposure may also harm bone marrow and interfere with blood cell production, resulting in anemia.

Industries use benzene to manufacture other chemicals, plastics, resins, nylon, and synthetic fibers. Benzene is also used to make some types of rubbers, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. Workers with frequent benzene exposure include painters, distillers, petrochemical workers, dye users, and furniture finishers.

Brayton Purcell has been representing workers injured by toxic substances, including benzene, for over 20 years. If you believe you have a claim arising from exposure to benzene or to any other toxic substance, please feel free to contact us. We will review your case free of charge, answer your questions, and advise you of your legal choices.

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