Sparkling waters, diet sodas, and Ozempic: New findings and a look at potential dangers

By Claire Wolters | Fact-checked by Jessica Wrubel
Published July 20, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Toxic chemicals reside in many items we use every day, including things we eat and drink.

  • Here’s a look at some recent discoveries and advice on things to avoid using or consuming.

Recent research has revealed that many common items contain dangerous or banned substances, from children’s teething toys to drug store diet sodas. What’s more, sneaky or incorrect labeling by some manufacturers keeps consumers in the dark about potential health hazards, increasing the chances they are blindly exposed to harm. 

Here are some recent discoveries and things you may want to avoid using or consuming.

Some diet sodas

This July, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared aspartame as a possible carcinogen. The non-sugar sweetener (NSS) has been used in the United States since the 1970s and goes under brand names like Equal and NutraSweet. It can be found in several artificially sweetened beverages and processed foods, including diet sodas. Because the substance is marked as a possible carcinogen, all people who drink diet aren’t guaranteed to develop cancer. But cutting back on the beverage could be a smart idea for people looking to reduce their risks.

To check whether or not a food or beverage contains aspartame, look at the nutrition label. 

Related: Popular artificial sweetener aspartame labeled as a possible carcinogen by the WHO

All non-sugar sweeteners (NSS)

While not all sugar substitutes are linked to cancer, WHO recommends against their use more broadly for other reasons, citing negative impacts on metabolism and weight loss if that is a person’s goal. In a May advisory report, WHO wrote that using an NSS “does not confer any long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children,” and may pose other “potential undesirable effects” in adults like increasing risks for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and death.[]

Related: Researchers warn physicians about potential dangers of sucralose

Various sports drinks for energy or weight loss

A recent study found that several sports drinks containing new plant-based ingredients didn’t actually contain what was on their label. Some of the products had higher quantities of the ingredients than listed, some lower, and some did not contain the ingredients at all. According to researchers, a few products contained ingredients that were banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and could be harmful to the immune and cardiovascular system.[] 

Some sparkling waters

A 2020 study by Consumer Reports claimed to find PFAS, also known as forever chemicals, in certain brands of sparkling water. Popular brands were listed as having a high PFAS score if they contained substances above one part per trillion (PPT). Of these, the brand with the highest PFAS level was Topo Chico, with 9.76 ppt, and it responded to the study by saying it would “continue to make improvements to prepare for more stringent standards in the future,” according to Consumer Reports. Some of the other brands challenged Consumer Report’s methodology or said they had detected safe levels in their testing processes.[] 

PFAS have been linked to various health problems, including cancer. They can take years to break down and pose harm to people and the environment.

PFAS in clothing products

Food and drink excluded, some clothing brands have been under fire for including PFAS in their garments. Period underwear brand Thinx attracted particular scrutiny after testing discovered PFAS in the product, which the company had said was made with clean ingredients. The company settled a lawsuit for $5 million regarding this discovery. According to the Green Science Policy Institute, PFAS are more likely to be found in sportswear or rain gear that includes forms of plastic and are meant for performance, rather than a standard cotton T-shirt.[][][]

PFAS can be a danger to humans in clothing, food, and drink because they can enter the body through multiple routes, including oral and dermal contact.

Short-chain chlorinated paraffin (SCCPs) in household items

Another toxic family of chemicals, short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs), were recently discovered in common children’s toys and household items, according to a study in Toronto. The researchers examined various things, including headphones and baby’s teething toys. Some of the health impacts of SCCPs are unknown, but other studies have linked chlorinated paraffin to potential cancer risks and organ damage in humans. SCCPs are also banned in Canada, where the study was conducted, showing that they made their way into products despite regulations against them—and suggesting that approved items may not be as safe as they seem.[]

Mislabeled melatonin 

Pediatric emergency room visits associated with melatonin use increased during the pandemic—and this year, research revealed that several melatonin products are mislabeled and contain higher-than-listed drug dosages.

The researchers looked at 25 unique brands of melatonin and found that the quantity of melatonin in the recommended dose ranged from 74% to 347% of what was listed on the label. Further, some products contain other ingredients like CBD. These inconsistencies can pose challenges for parents and doctors thinking about administering safe dosages for children and hinder their ability to make educated decisions for a child. In lieu of the study, some doctors recommend trying sleep hygiene practices like turning off screens and lights before bed and keeping distractions at bay.[]

Ozempic for people without diabetes or a doctor’s recommendation

Ozempic has been trending as a miracle weight loss drug, but it’s not as magical as it seems. Like most prescription medications, Ozempic can work well for an intended patient base but not so well for those who do not need it. As more doctors and patients have spoken out about experiences with the medication, more serious side effects of the drug have been revealed. Some of these include malnutrition if the appetite is too drastically diminished or things like thyroid tumors, pancreatitis, changes in vision, hypoglycemia, gallbladder issues, kidney failure, and cancer—which can require hospitalization. The long-term side effects of the medication are largely unknown.[]

What this means for you

Recent research has revealed that several everyday clothing, food, drink, and healthcare items contain harmful chemicals or have dangerous side effects. Among others, non-sugar sweeteners, including aspartame, some sports drinks, some sparkling waters, clothing containing PFAS, toys and household items containing toxins, and drugs like melatonin and Ozempic may be more hazardous than they seem.

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