I was involved in an argument at work today about the horrible, horrible poison I was ingesting – namely, diet soda. You see, apparently potassium benzoate is just another name for benzene, and we all know that benzene causes cancer! Right, so, obviously I’m not a total moron and I didn’t fall for it. But in poking around, there may be a nugget of truth in the mountain of horseshit.
Here’s what I’ve been able to figure out might be going on:
Potassium/sodium benzoate, by itself, becomes benzene when exposed to heat and light. The amounts used in soft drinks are negligible and pose no threat.
Potassium/sodium benzoate becomes benzene when exposed to heat and light in the presence of vitamin C (citric or ascorbic acid). Again, negligible in soft drinks, no threat.
It’s the end of the world, don’t drink soft drinks! THEY are out to KILL YOU ALL!
I’m curious from a chemistry point of view which is accurate. I know my idiot coworker is wrong – if nothing else, I can rely on the fact that she thinks iodized salt will poison your thyroid as evidence of her stupidity – but I don’t know exactly what happens. And the stuff on the net is just varied enough that I can’t quite filter it for myself. (I’m ignoring the obviously biased sites, but even sticking to reasonable-sounding ones, I’m not sure what’s actually going on here.)
Can the Dope straighten me out?