WASHINGTON, D.C. — Some leading public-health experts want education officials to ban certain soft drinks from public schools until they're proven safe and free of the cancer-causing chemical benzene.
Benzene is a common industrial chemical that the Environmental Protection Agency classifies as a human carcinogen. Long-term exposure can cause leukemia and other blood cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Benzene isn't an ingredient in soft drinks, but it can form when two commonly found ingredients react: ascorbic acid, otherwise known as vitamin C, and the preservatives sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate. The reaction can happen when products are exposed to light or heat.
"Soft drinks that contain ascorbic acid and sodium or potassium benzoate include Diet Pepsi Wild Cherry, Fanta Orange, Hawaiian Punch, Mug Root Beer, Pepsi Vanilla, Sierra Mist, Sunkist and Tropicana Lemonade, among others," the experts said in a letter sent last week to state education officials.