Study of Popular Drinks Found 95 Percent Contained Plasticizers

Study of Popular Drinks Found 95 Percent Contained Plasticizers
Study of plasticizers in popular drinks found that regardless of the packaging, added sugar was the kicker. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Jessie Zhang

Spanish researchers have found in a study of 75 drink samples that nearly all contained plasticizers—chemical coatings that give plastics their bendy and soft form—and the more sugar, the more plasticizer it had.

Plasticizers are polymer materials added to plastics for desired flexibility and durability, with bisphenol A, also known as BPA, and phthalates being the most commonly used.

They are also used in daily items such as food storage containers, canned foods, and some toiletries.

However, excessive amounts of plasticizer in food can cause serious damage to the liver, kidneys, and reproductive system.

It has also been linked to causing miscarriages, birth deformities, and even cancer.

Published in Environment International, the researchers analyzed water, cola, juices, wine, and hot drink samples and found that regardless of the packaging, added sugar was found to make the most significance.

“Our results show that more than 95 percent of the beverages have at least one of the 19 plasticizers that we analysed, which shows the ubiquity of these compounds and our exposure to them in our day-to-day lives,” Julio Fernández Arribas explained.

Fernández Arribas is the first author of the study and a researcher from the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA) of the Spanish National Research Council.

They detected the highest levels of contamination in sugary soft drinks and juices with added sugars, with averages of 2,876 nanograms per litre and 2,965 ng/L, respectively.

The lowest levels of contamination were found in bottled water (2.7 ng/L) and coffee (24 ng/L), followed by wine, sugar-free soft drinks, tea, and juices without added sugars.

Barcelona’s tap water had significantly higher levels than bottled water, with 40.9 ng/L and 2.7 ng/L of plasticizer, respectively, which the researchers said is due mainly to the chemicals that may come from the plastic water pipes Spain uses.

The more sugar, the more contaminated by plasticizers. (Shutterstock)
The more sugar, the more contaminated by plasticizers. (Shutterstock)

“One of the most striking results was to observe that sugary beverages had higher levels of plasticizers, especially due to the presence of 2-ethylhexyldiphenyl phosphate (EHDPP),” IDAEA researcher and main author of the study, Ethel Eljarrat, said.

EHDPP is related to an increase in the risk of suffering from some types of cancer, such as breast and uterine cancer.

Surprisingly, packaging type—glass, plastic, or can—wasn’t critical in determining the plasticizer levels in drinks.

They found that plastic coating on metal caps of glass bottles releases eight separate compounds into the drinks, and in the case of one brand of juice, the glass bottle contained ten times higher plasticizer levels than the other packages.

Top Sugary Beverages

Sugar-sweetened beverages are prevalent in Australia, especially among young adult males, foreshadowing continued population weight gain and high burdens of chronic disease.
A population study of 3,430 adults found that almost half of Australian adults had consumed a drink that was high in sugar in the past week.

Consumption of fruit juices was the most prevalent at nearly 40 percent, followed by soda at 29 percent, artificially-sweetened soda at 18 percent, sports drinks at eight percent, and energy drinks at four percent.

In line with previous research from the U.S., the UK, and Norway, higher soda consumption was linked with males, younger age, socio-economic disadvantage, frequent takeaway food consumption, obesity, and a diagnosis of heart disease or depression.

Additionally, the levels of plasticizers in Australian food are generally low, according to Food Standards Australia & New Zealand’s (FSANZ) latest survey.

They analysed seven phthalate, adipate, and citrate plasticisers that may be used in food packaging materials.

“Estimated dietary exposure for Australian consumers was below internationally recognised Health-Based Guidance Values, and no appreciable health risks have been identified for the Australian population,” FSANZ said.