Cancer Causing Chemicals in a Popular Fruity Drink




s-BUBBLE-TEA-PEARLS-CAUSE-CANCER-large[1].jpgPersonally, I've never had bubble tea, and I hadn't heard of it until one of my friends told me about the bubbles in the drink causing cancer. I saw that this tea is sold at the HUB, and I wondered how true the cancer causing claim actually was. After a little research, I learned more about what the tea actually is, and what the ongoing controversy is.

Bubble tea, boba tea, or pearl milk tea, was a drink created in Taiwan in the 80s. Most drinks consist of a tea base mixed with fruit or milk, with tapioca balls at the bottom. Now, it is not the tea that is supposed to cause cancer, but the tapioca at the bottom. The pearl tapioca, or boba, is used not only in the tea drink, but also in a variety of Asian desserts. 

At first, the public was up in arms about the tea because of a German health warning that stated the tapioca balls presented a choking risk to children, with the fear of the bobas entering the lungs.  A German study was then done at the University Hospital Aachen and reported finding traces of carinogenic chemicals in the tapioca balls. These chemicals are known as aspolychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, and are known to cause cancer. Other chemicals like styrene and acetophenone were found to be in the tapioca. For example, styrene, according to the U.S. EPA, has been shown to be a "suspected toxin" to the gastrointestinal tract, kidney and respiratory system. The PCBs in the tapioca balls have been known to cause adverse health effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems of the body, with a ban from U.S. manufacturing.  


While this drink has become popular in Asia, Europe and the United States, in early September, a leading Tawainese manufacturer of bubble tea came out to refute the claims made by the German researchers. The chairman of the manufacturing corporation defended the safety of the bubble tea and also had an official from the FDA of Taiwan support his claim of safety.


Every bubble tea drink everywhere isn't likely to have those PCBs and other chemicals in them, but experts suggest that if a person wants to continue drinking the tea, to first make sure that the tapioca balls come from a clean manufacturer clear of any cancer causing chemicals.






I found your blog very interesting. i've never tried bubble tea either, but I see people walking around with the drink almost every time I'm in the HUB. I'll admit, I was a little critical of the research considering all of the carcinogenic claims have come out of Germany. This reminded me of the discussion we had in class about why only one group is conducting research about the AD36 virus causing obesity. If there really are carcinogens in such a popular drink, then why aren't more people studying it?
I searched the internet to see if any other research groups (other than the German one) had found the same results. What I did find was this article discussing the negatives of bubble tea as far as nutritional value. Though regular and herbal teas are usually a beneficial addition to a person's diet, adding tapioca, milk and sugar results in a high-calorie, low-nutrition beverage that use up a significant portion of a person's daily calorie allotment. So if someone chooses to avoid the bubble tea from now on, it may be beneficially in more ways than one!

Your blog grabbed my attention with the first mention of tapioca. When I was younger my mom used to serve us tapioca pudding for dessert practically every night! I know that bubble tea and tapioca pudding are prepared differently, but should I be concerned about my health? I did some research and found that tapioca pudding is also made with the small pearl tapioca you mention being in the bubble teas. Because it was the boba, or small pearl tapioca, that was speculated to be cancerous, I am going to assume that the pudding I have come to know and love also falls under this "dangerous" category.
While I was researching for the boba I stumbled across another interesting article that listed the top 5 foods linked to cancer. I'm sure the FDA has not confirmed the causations, but I still think it's important to be aware of the ingredients and their potential health risks. One food on the list, processed meats, didn't surprise me at all because these types of food contain high levels of fat and sodium nitrate. If you have any concern about everyday foods containing cancerous chemicals, I would check out this link posted online by Natural News. It gives really good information on what kinds of food to avoid and why.
Is there a food on this list that really shocked you?

I found this blog very interesting. You hear about many different foods and things causing cancer. I haven't heard about bobo tea causing cancer until your article so this is very new to me. However I have heard about many sodas,especially diet, and other artificial things such as fake sugars like splenda. I found an article that talks about how things like artificial sweeteners such as splenda can have negative impact on the body such as weight gain and cancer.

Like Caitlin, I found an article on Livestrong criticizing Boba tea not for the carcinogens could be in the tea, but for its poor nutritional value. The use of syrups, milks, and jellies in the tea, turn the simple drink into a sugary concoction. According to the information presented in the article, drinking the tea is just as unhealthy as drinking a soda or an equivalent. Thought providing interesting nutritional information, the article was devoid of even a mention of being a cancer risk. Maybe the claim was all hype. Did the German scientists make a conclusion before they conducted enough experiments? I think further testing needs to be conducted before anything can be concluded. While I don't plan on drinking the tea anytime soon, I don't see it being the cancerous concoction that the German scientists claim it to be.
Here's a link to the Livestrong article I read:

I occasionally got boba tea before when I walked past the sushi shop in HUB...My mom has once told me that those oval pearls at the bottom are toxic,and she went forth to point out that they caused cancer.After that,whenever I drink bubble tea,I always avoid sucking them with my straw and throw them into the garbage can.After reading your post,I confirmed my action with a good cause,and I think rather trying to find a good manufacturer of tapioca balls,which is not practical,we should stop eating that little thing.Almost a waxy taste,no reason to stick on.As a rational person,it should be easy to give up those rubber balls for the prospect of health.

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