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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Beware of Decaffeinated Coffee, It Contains a Carcinogenic Chemical

Beware of Decaffeinated Coffee, It Contains a Carcinogenic Chemical

For those looking to avoid caffeine, decaffeinated coffee might seem like a safe choice.
However, health officials are raising concerns, petitioning the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban a key chemical used in the decaffeination process due to its carcinogenic properties, as reported by CNN.

The chemical in question, methylene chloride, is a colorless liquid used in various industrial processes including paint stripping, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and metal cleaning. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists these applications among others for methylene chloride.

Dr. Maria Doa, the Senior Director of Chemical Policy at the Environmental Defense Fund and one of the individuals behind the petitions to the FDA filed in November, stated, “Methylene chloride has long been recognized as a carcinogen, classified as such by the National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the World Health Organization.”

These petitions were scheduled by the FDA for review on December 21, with a window for public comment open until March 11.

In addition to being carcinogenic, methylene chloride can cause other health problems such as liver toxicity, neurological effects, and in some cases, death when exposed to high levels, according to Doa.

These risks are associated with acute external exposure to high levels of the chemical or when ingested alone, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Due to its toxicity, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the sale of methylene chloride as a paint remover in 2019. In 2023, Doa highlighted, the EPA proposed extending this ban to cover other consumer uses and several industrial and commercial applications. However, food-related uses regulated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by the FDA remain permissible.

California, which boasts one of the world's largest economies and often sets precedents for the rest of the country, has recently introduced a bill aiming to prohibit the use of methylene chloride in decaffeination processes, according to reports.

What Can Be Done Now

Even if the FDA ultimately decides to ban methylene chloride, such a process could take years, the report suggests.

To avoid potential exposure to methylene chloride when purchasing decaffeinated coffee, Doa recommends looking for products labeled as “solvent-free,” “Swiss water processed,” or “certified organic.”

Nutritionist Monique Richard also advises consumers to consider the frequency and quantity of their decaffeinated coffee consumption and its reasons. For those concerned and seeking alternatives, she mentions caffeine-free options like drinks made from wild dandelion roots, figs, barley, chicory roots, mushroom elixir, cocoa, rooibos, and yerba mate.

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