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Chemicals Banned Outside of the US

Author: Emily Jiang

Editors: Hwi-On Lee and He-Hanson Xuan

Artist: Jade Li

Have you ever wondered why particular food products taste different overseas? Or perhaps how all those chemicals on the back of skincare and cosmetic products affect the person using it? Canada, the UK, Japan, and China have all banned many of the chemicals that are still being used in the US today due to the toxicity of the chemicals contained within. For example, some of the banned chemicals can cause memory loss, high blood pressure, and are carcinogenic. If these chemicals lead to so many health problems, then why do we continue to allow them in our food products? The issue lies in the FDA, which focuses on immediate illness prevention rather than cumulative exposure and chronic toxicity.

For instance, some food additives that are banned in countries outside of the US include brominated vegetable oil (BVO), ractopamine, and potassium bromate. BVO is a food additive that can be found in sports drinks and sodas. Originally, it was patented as a flame retardant. Studies have shown that BVO can cause memory loss, skin rashes, major organ damage, birth defects, and heart problems. These health concerns mainly derive from the bromine in BVO, which rivals iodine in receptor sites in the body and thus enlarges the chances of iodine deficiency, autoimmune disease, and specific cancers. For these reasons, BVO is banned in Japan, the European Union, and India. Ractopamine is a food additive that increases the weight of livestock such as pigs, cows, cattle, and turkey. Ractopamine has horrible side effects for affected animals, such as high-stress levels, hyperactivity, and death. For humans, ractopamine is linked to cardiovascular damage, reproductive damage, and chromosomal and behavior changes, causing ractopamine to be banned in 160 countries.

Another food additive is potassium bromate, which is marketed as a dough conditioner used to improve the dough’s texture and give it its attractive white color. However, in 1999, it was declared a possible human carcinogen (capable of causing cancer in living tissue) by the International Agency on Research for Cancer. Studies have shown that exposure to potassium bromate can promote asthma and other breathing difficulties, causing it to be banned in several foreign nations.

The US continues to use toxic chemicals with ignorance, disregarding the health concerns of its citizens even as hundreds of countries ban the chemicals still used in the US today. It is glaringly clear that now, more than ever, change must be made.



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