Wednesday, December 15, 2010

EPA Says Saccharin Safe; How About Synergistic Effects?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to a news release I received from the agency yesterday, “has removed saccharin, a common artificial sweetener, and its salts from the agency’s list of hazardous substances. Saccharin is no longer considered a potential hazard to human health.”

But that doesn’t mean I’ll be pouring a packet of Sweet'N Low into lemonade, eating low-calorie cookies or using commercial toothpastes anytime soon.

I spent some time yesterday researching saccharin’s history and the reasons behind its previous listing as a possible carcinogen. Like almost everything else in dispute these days, there are at least three sides to the argument, with all sides providing different studies and theories to support their points of view.

My reason for avoiding saccharin, though, is based on the belief that we should be avoiding the intake of synthetic chemicals whenever possible, as we know next to nothing about the synergistic effects of these chemicals.

Last week, I attended a conference (“Exploring the Environmental Causes of Autism and Learning Disabilities”) presented by The Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center. According to Dr. Philip Landrigan, the center’s director, there are over 80,000 synthetic chemicals registered for commercial use with the EPA.

While 200 of these are already known to be neurotoxic in humans, even more alarming is that the overwhelming majority of the 80,000 have never been tested in humans. Further, these tests are done using just individual chemicals; the synergistic effects of these compounds have never been addressed.

So, even if saccharin is completely safe when tested on its own, how is it reacting in our bodies when it comes into contact with the hundreds of other synthetic chemicals we are exposed to daily? I’ll use organic cane sugar and not take that chance.

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