Hidden dangers lurking inside your favourite soft drinks

Despite its high sugar content and zero nutritional benefit, Coca Cola remains the biggest selling item in supermarkets today. But what is not commonly known is the chemical components in soft drink containers could be what is actually making us sick, very sick.

The use of polycarbonate containers in packaging is controversial because some of the chemical components leach into the food and drink we consume. When manufacturers switched to using polyethylene terephthalate (PET) containers many years ago we were told it was safe. But is it?

Director of Medicine at the University of Adelaide, Professor Gary Wittert says the chemical components causing the most concern for researchers are phthalates and BPA (Bisphenol A).

“Both phthalates and BPA come under the heading of compounds which are called endo-disruptors because they affect the function of hormones that regulate metabolism in the body,” Professor Wittert told Australian Women Online.

“In Canada there’s a ban on BPA. But not in Australia where all packaging contains BPA and phthalates.”

A 2010 report from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned of “the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children.”

The FDA report also said low levels of human exposure to BPA are considered safe. However, using more sophisticated methods, researchers are now detecting much higher levels of BPA in some people.

Professor Wittert explains, “We’ve been measuring these levels in people’s urine and we’re going to look at whether they’re harmful or not. But what I can tell you is that some people have phenomenally high levels of these things which gives some indication of exposure.”

According to a well researched article on phthalates on the website Wikipedia, phthalates are viable suspects in a range of diseases and health problems, including some cancers and obesity. It is for this reason phthalates are being phased out of many products in the United States, Canada, and the European Union.

In February 2011, Australia introduced a permanent ban on plastic products for young children which contain more than 1 per cent by weight of DEHP (Diethylhexyl phthalate). But this ban does not extend to any other plastic products sold in Australia.

Soft drink manufacturers in Australia maintain the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) used in packaging of soft drinks, water and other beverages, is safe and contains no BPA. However, more research needs to be done to establish the safety of PET because some studies have found leaching does occur in products packaged in PET, a claim manufacturers have always denied.

Two studies by William Shotyk, a geochemistry professor at the University of Heidelberg, show that antimony, a potentially toxic trace element, leaches from PET bottles over time.

Furthermore, Scientists at Goethe University in Frankfurt have also found that estrogenic compounds leach from PET plastic into the contents of the bottle.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) are telling the public that polyethylene terephthalate (PET) used to make drink containers is considered safe. But I think there is sufficient cause for concern, don’t you?