WASHINGTON, May 6, 2014 — A few months ago we were informed that the bread at Subway sandwich shops contained chemicals that were a main ingredient in yoga mats and now we have discovered that the soda and sports drinks that Americans drink at a rate of 4 gallons and 44 gallons per person per year respectively, contains a chemical used as a flame retardant.
In January 2013, Pepsi Co. announced that it would stop using BVO in Gatorade and just today Pepsi Co. and Coca Cola announced that it would remove the controversial chemical, BVO, from all of their drinks.
Brominated vegetable oil is a patented flame retardant for plastics that has been banned from use in food products in Europe, India and Japan but drink manufacturers have continued to use it in soft drinks and sports drinks to keep the ingredients combined in their products.
Many of the flavorings used in these drinks are oily and would remain sitting on top of the drink. Bromine is heavy and therefore when it is bonded to the light oil, the oil will sink and combine.
Drinks that contain BVO usually look cloudy or hazy.
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration removed BVO from the list of substances generally recognized as safe in 1970, drink manufacturers have been allowed by the FDA to continue using the chemical in their products.
Scientific research is being conducted on brominated flame retardants because there is evidence that it builds up in people’s bodies. Early studies are showing that the chemical can affect hormone regulation which leads to problems with children’s brain development, fertility, thyroid function and cancer.
A study in 2012 showed that the amount of exposure to the flame retardant version of the chemical is trivial compared to the amount people in the United States drink each year.
Adults take in about 4,000 times more BVO than have exposure to the flame retardant chemical and children 1,000 times more.
There have been documented cases of health effects from too much ingestion of BVO through soda drinking.
In 1997, a man entered the emergency room with headache, fatigue, memory loss and diminished muscle function. He continued to deteriorate and eventually loss the ability to talk. A blood test revealed extremely high levels of bromide in his system. It was then discovered that he was drinking 2 to 4 liters of soda containing BVO a day. After dialysis, he regained most of his normal functions.
Another case was reported in 2003, a man was being treated for swollen, oozing hands which was discovered to be a rare skin condition, bromoderma.
Possibly the most amazing aspect of this story is the reason why two $40 billion companies decided to make a change in how they make their successful products.
It was because of a 16 year old girl from Mississippi.
Sarah Kavanagh, was drinking an orange Gatorade one day and found herself scanning the ingredients. She had always held the belief that like the commercials said, it was a healthy and almost necessary thing to drink when exercising.
When she found the names of some ingredients that she didn’t know, she decided to look them up.
The last ingredient listed was BVO.
When she discovered that other countries had banned the chemical, it made her realize two things. One that if other countries were no allowing it in their food, maybe we shouldn’t either and two, Gatorade must be able to be made without it because it is still sold in these other countries.
With that, the curious teenager created a petition on Change.org asking Pepsi Co. to remove the chemical.
In a modern day, David vs. Goliath story, Kavanagh sent the billion dollar corporation her petition after a few weeks when she had reached her goal of 200,000 signatures.
Kavanagh told The Today Show in February 2013, that at first the company did not want to talk to her and had just sent her a form letter but people continued to sign and then the media became interested.
As the petition continued to grow, Pepsi Co. started to take notice and one day during Algebra class, the announcement came across Twitter that what she had hoped for had happened. Gatorade would no longer contain BVO.
On her petition site, Kavanagh claimed victory and stated how glad she was that such a big company was willing to make changes to put their customers’ heath first.
Sometimes the little guy or girl, does win.