Artificial Sweeteners Polluting the Environment

Artificial Sweeteners Polluting the Environment

November 24, 2013

One might think that a cup of coffee or a diet soda may have nothing to do with the environment, but research suggests otherwise. Sucralose, the sweetener present in the popular “yellow” sugar substitute, is not digested by the body. Your body’s inability to digest sucralose may make it calorie-free, but that doesn’t mean it’s insignificant. Research performed by the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University shows that the sweetener accompanying your meal can make it all the way to your local waterway and groundwater without being altered.

Generally, wastewater treatment facilities can remove a variety of pollutants before the water is discharged back in to the environment. However, sucralose has unique chemical properties that prevent it from being broken down in the conventional wastewater treatment process. Researchers at Arizona State University tested the ability of sucralose, as well as sucrose, to be degraded by biological and chemical processes. In all experiments, degradation of sucralose was negligible. In turn, this research indicates that the artificial sweetener passes as an untreated pollutant into surface and groundwaters after being discharged from treatment facilities.

Although it’s impact on the environment is unclear, the build up of sucralose may have devastating consequences over time. The only positive side to this reality is that since sucralose is resistant to degradation, it cannot form the toxic by-products often formed by other pollutants during the wastewater treatment process. But even though it may not become toxic, no one knows for sure the fate of artificial sweeteners accumulating in the environment. People may want to reconsider their dietary choices if they are concerned about their environmental impacts.

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