Microwave Popcorn Causes Cancer: Fact or Fiction
What’s the relation between microwave popcorn and cancer?
Popcorn is a ceremonial component of viewing movies. You don’t need to go to the movie to indulge in a bucket of popcorn. Simply place a bag in the microwave and wait a minute or so for the fluffy blossoms to pop open.
Popcorn is also low in fat and high in fiber.
Yet a couple of chemicals in microwave popcorn and its packaging have been linked to harmful health effects, including cancer and a severe lung ailment.
Read on to understand the real story behind the claims regarding microwave popcorn and your health.
Does microwave popcorn promote cancer?
The suspected link between microwave popcorn and cancer isn’t from the popcorn itself, but from chemicals called per fluorinated compounds (PFCs) that are in the bags. PFCs resist grease, making them ideal for preventing oil from seeping into popcorn bags.
PFCs have also been utilized in:
- pizza boxes\sandwich wraps
- Teflon pans\other types of food packaging
The difficulty with PFCs is that they break down into perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a substance that’s known to cause cancer.
These chemicals make their way into the popcorn when you heat them up. When you eat the popcorn, they get into your bloodstream and can persist in your body for a long time.
PFCs have been so widely used that around 98 percent Trusted Source of Americans already have this toxin in their blood. That’s why health professionals have been attempting to figure out whether PFCs are related to cancer or other disorders.
To find out how these chemicals might impact individuals, a group of researchers known as the C8 Science Panel studied Trusted Source the effects of PFOA exposure on residents who resided near DuPont’s Washington Works manufacturing site in West Virginia.
The facility had been spewing PFOA into the environment since the 1950s.
After several years of research, the C8 researchers linked Trusted Source PFOA exposure to various health issues in people, including kidney cancer and testicular cancer.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted its own review Trusted Source of PFOA from a number of sources, including microwave popcorn bags and nonstick food pans. It revealed that microwave popcorn could contribute for more than 20 percent of the typical PFOA levels in Americans’ blood.
As a result of the investigation, food manufacturers voluntarily stopped using PFOA in their product bags in 2011. Five years later, the FDA went even farther, banning Trusted Source the use of three more PFCs in food packaging. That means the popcorn you buy today shouldn’t include these chemicals.
However, since the FDA’s evaluation, dozens of additional packaging chemicals have been launched. According to the Environmental Working Group, little is known regarding the safety of these compounds.
Is microwave popcorn linked to other health problems?
Microwave popcorn has also been related to a deadly lung illness called popcorn lung. Diacetyl, a chemical used to give microwave popcorn its buttery flavour and scent, is related to severe and irreversible lung damage when inhaled in significant doses.
Popcorn lung makes the small airways in the lungs (bronchioles) grow damaged and restricted to the point that they can’t let in enough air. The disease causes shortness of breath, wheezing, and other symptoms comparable to those of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (COPD).
Two decades ago the risk Trusted Source for popcorn lung was mostly among workers in microwave popcorn facilities or other manufacturing plants who breathed in huge levels of diacetyl for lengthy periods of time. Hundreds of workers were diagnosed with this condition, and many died.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health evaluated the effects of diacetyl exposure at six microwave popcorn factories. The researchers observed a linkTrusted Source between long-term exposure and lung damage.
Popcorn lung wasn’t considered a risk to consumers of microwave popcorn. Yet one Colorado guy reportedly developed the illness despite consuming two bags of microwave popcorn a day for 10 years.
In 2007, major popcorn makers removed diacetyl from their products.
How can you lower your risk?
Chemicals related to cancer and popcorn lung have been eliminated from microwave popcorn in recent years. Even while some chemicals that remain in the packaging of these products may be questionable, eating microwave popcorn from time to time shouldn’t pose any health problems.
But if you’re still afraid or consume a lot of popcorn, there’s no need to give it up as a snack.
Try air-popping popcorn
Invest in an air popper, like this one, and make your own version of movie-theater popcorn. Three cups of air-popped popcorn contains only 90 calories and less than 1 gramme of fat.
Make stovetop popcorn
Make popcorn on the stovetop using a covered saucepan and some olive, coconut, or avocado oil. Use about 2 teaspoons of oil for every half cup of popcorn kernels.
Add your own flavors
Boost the flavor of air-popped or stovetop popcorn without any possibly dangerous chemicals or excessive salt by adding your own toppings. Spray it with olive oil or freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Experiment with different seasonings, such as cinnamon, oregano, or rosemary.
The bottom line
A couple of chemicals that were once in microwave popcorn and its packaging have been related to cancer and lung problems. But these chemicals have now been eliminated from most commercial brands.
If you’re still concerned about the chemicals in microwave popcorn, prepare your own popcorn at home using the stove or an air popper.
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