The Health Risks of Sulfur Dioxide in Dried Fruits – Article published by, March 29th 2011

Sulfur dioxide is one of several types of sulfites used to preserve foods and prevent discoloration. Sulfur dioxide is a colorless gas that has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties and is used in dried fruits to keep the food fresh and prevent growth of microorganisms. The US Food and Drug Administration prohibits the use of sulfur dioxide on dried fruits unless the product label declares its presence because of potential health risks of the substance.

Asthma is a medical condition characterized by the narrowing and swelling of your airways that makes breathing difficult, resulting in coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Sulfur dioxide may increase the risk of asthma in some people. Cleveland Clinic says sulfur dioxide may cause asthma symptoms that include wheezing, difficulty breathing and life-threatening reactions. Moreover, Cleveland Clinic states that most reactions occur from inhalation of sulfur dioxide generated from sulfite-containing food while you are eating. Research by Audrey Smargiassi published in “Environmental Health Perspectives” in 2009 discovered that short-term episodes of air exposure to sulfur dioxide in children are associated with asthma. Talk with your doctor about eating dried fruits preserved with sulfur dioxide if you have a history of asthma.

Sulfur dioxide may cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Research by Babgaleh Timbo of the Center of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the FDA published in the “Journal of Food Protection” in 2004 reports that sulfite sensitive individuals have adverse reactions. Cleveland Clinic reports people who are allergic to sulfites could experience anaphylaxis, a serious life-threatening allergic reaction to the chemical. If you are allergic to sulfites, avoid eating dried fruits preserved with sulfur dioxide. Talk with your physician about what to do if you accidentally consume foods with sulfur dioxide and have an allergic reaction.

Cancer is a disease that begins in cells and spreads to tissues and organs throughout your body. Tumors develop from old cells that do not die or new cells that your body does not need. Cancer and tumor growth may be caused by genetics and exposure to chemicals, such as sulfur dioxide. Research by W.J. Lee published in “Environmental Health Perspectives” in 2002 finds that exposure to sulfur dioxide increases risk of mortality from lung cancer, leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer affecting the white blood cells. Talk with your doctor about eating dried fruits preserved with sulfur dioxide if you or your family has a history of cancer.

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