Many Americans have given up soda since 1998, in order to maintain a healthy diet, and many consumers stay away from diet drinks since the reports came out about the dangers of sugar substitutes. Sports drinks have gained popularity over the past decades, restoring the body’s electrolytes after exercising.
That is until 15-year-old Sarah Kavanagh of Hattiesburg, Mississippi researched the ingredients listed on the Gatorade’s label. The last ingredient listed was “brominated vegetable oil” (BVO), which contains bromine, the same element found in the flame retardant used on upholstery and children’s items like pajamas.
Last March, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Center for Science in the Public Interest found high levels of 4-methylimidazole, an animal carcinogen, in CocaCola and Pepsi products, although the FDA disputes this claim. Both of those companies use BVO; PepsiCo adds it to both Gatorade and Mountain Dew, while CocaCola adds it to Powerade, Fresca and Fanta Orange and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group for its part, uses BVO in Squirt and some Sunkist brands.
As with the chemicals in the drinks listed above, the bromine found in BVO creates its share of problems if ingested. When bromine is used in flame-retardants, research has found that it can build up in the body, as well as in breast milk. Studies link that build-up to impaired neurological development, reduced fertility, altered thyroid hormones and early onset of puberty.
Studies have shown that brominated vegetable oil has been linked to short-term issues, including cramping, blurred vision, teary eyes, vomiting and cyanosis (blue skin), but it also lets bromine build up in fatty tissues. Studies using rats show an increase in heart lesions. In humans, it has been associated with memory loss, birth defects and growth problems. Scientific American published an article that said video game players who drink large quantities of Mountain Dew and other BVO-laden drinks to keep their edge, end up with skin lesions, nerve disorders and memory loss.
“Gatorade: Don’t put flame retardant chemicals in sports drinks!” is the straightforward name of Sarah Kavanagh’s (Change.org) petition which circulated the Internet reminding the public that PepsiCo product Gatorade, along with 10 percent of other drinks sold in the U.S. contain BVO. She received close to 200,000 signatures on the petition.
Manufacturers use BVO as a way of keeping flavors in citrus drinks from separating and from having other oils rise to the top of beverages.
“Bromine is a halogen and displaces iodine, which may depress thyroid function,” reads the BVO health disclaimer on the nutrition website. “Evidence for this has been extrapolated from pre-1975 cases where bromine-containing sedatives resulted in emergency room visits and incorrect diagnoses of psychosis and brain damage due to side effects such as depression, memory loss, hallucinations, violent tendencies, seizures, cerebral atrophy, acute irritability, tremors, ataxia, confusion, loss of peripheral vision, slurred speech, stupor, tendon reflex changes, photophobia due to enlarged pupil and extensor plantar responses. In one case, a man who drank eight liters of Ruby Red Squirt daily had a reaction that caused his skin to turn red and produced lesions diagnosed as bromoderma.”
BVO has been banned in Japan and the European Union. Why is it on the shelves in the U.S.? If Gatorade is popular with athletes and people who exercise to stay healthy, why would they feel the need to add a flame retardant chemical to some of their drinks? Unless they are worried that your stomach will catch on fire after drinking Gatorade, there is no need to add a flame retardant.
Will you continue to buy Gatorade, knowing you are ingesting a flame retardant? Feel free to comment on this blog post. Contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).