PFOA: A Popping Question


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Microwave popcorn--it has its own button on the microwave. Pop it in face up, listen to the kernels pop, three minutes later....boom, you got your popcorn. One serving of popcorn (butterless) has more antioxidants alone than some fruits and veggies. Just one cup can equal around 31 calories, while one cup of potato chips can be around 140 calories. You could eat four cups of popcorn and just be a little over 100 calories. Sounds like a deal to me. Its also one of the only snacks that is 100%, not 99%, but 100% whole grain. Popcorn (again, butterless) has an excellent source of fiber and is very low in fat. The health benefits are present. So why is it one of the 7 Foods You Should Never Eat?

Sometimes after you pop your plain popcorn things can be a little bit....bland. What do you turn too to add some flavor? Butter? Special seasonings? Melted chocolate? Perfluorooctanoic acid? On the inside of microwaveable popcorn bags is a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA. PFOA is used to create stain-resistant coatings, such as Teflon. "The chemicals in the bag lining get into our bloodstream because they vaporize and migrate into the popcorn during microwaving," said Olga Naidenko, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group. "They stay in your body for years and accumulate there." PFOA has shown to cause liver, pancreatic, and testicular cancer in animals. Does that mean PFOA has the strength to cause outbursts in human bodies too? According to a study recorded earlier this year in NBC Health, "Children who had higher concentrations of these compounds, called perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), in their blood had lower immune responses to diphtheria and tetanus vaccinations. An insufficient immune response to a vaccination can mean a child is actually vulnerable to catching a disease even though they've been vaccinated against it."

Though PFOA seems detrimental to the well being of animals and children. According to a New York Times article, PFOA has been detectable in the blood of nearly 95% of Americans. 95% is a significant percentage. How come there haven't been more cases of the harmful effects of PFOA? Why hasn't the concern been raised more? Is PFOA coming in contact with enough of our food and causing our bodies to come immune to it?  Or are levels simply not high enough in adults to have any effect?

Just incase levels are "not high enough" to cause harm, Chemical company, "DuPont and other manufacturers, have promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan." The one problem with this initiative is that literally millions of bags of popcorn will be consumed between now and 2015.

Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville says that though studies are "provocative, the findings are not of immediate public health concern. Vaccines have largely protected the public against diphtheria and tetanus over the same period of time that PFCs have accumulated in the environment"

Next time you go to pop a bag of popcorn, will you be concerned about adding PFOA to your body? Chances are, it's already there. Are you comfortable with adding more? Does the healthiness of butterless popcorn outweigh the risk of adding more PFOA to your body? Do you think PFOA will become a phenomenon in the next few years, or are our bodies growing immune to it?

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2 Comments

PFOA isn't even the only thing wrong with microwave popcorn. There's also diaceyl in the butter. Of course, if like you said you're not using butter this problem isn't much of your concern. Initially reading this, I was angered that this issue hasn't been brought to my attention. Don't we have agencies approving foods for this very reason? Isn't that where our tax money is going? But I found out here that the EPA actually plans that by 2015, they will have have eight companies( including DuPont) get completely rid of PFOA products. However sadly, Teflon did not agree with this plan.

Whoa! I can't believe that I have been going all 19 years of my life eating these toxins. I never knew this about popcorn and it's very disturbing. Whenever something gives you a chance of cancer I feel like that should be broadcasted more! My mother would always buy unbuttered popcorn (which I used to resent her for) and now I'm glad she did. I always considered unbuttered popcorn healthy... but now I'm reluctant to eat it. I found an article here on The Healthy Home Economist that popcorn is a very healthy snack, just stay away from the microwave stuff. They say to make it on the stove with oil. http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/popcorn-the-healthy-snack-youre-not-eating-often-enough/ They also say that the healthy component of popcorn is polyphenols which reduce aging! Crazy!

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