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Why Your Microwave Popcorn May Be Toxic

Nothing beats the smell of microwave popcorn on a rainy afternoon, but the reasons to avoid this treat are mounting.

First there is the problem of popcorn lung, a respiratory issue caused by a chemical used to create the buttery flavor. Now there seems to be a new chemical-related problem, and this time it is a chemical not used on the popcorn itself, but found in the bag. Most microwave popcorn bags are coated with a perfluorinated chemical (PFC), which is designed to keep the oil from permeating and seeping through the bag. PFCs can break down to form another more hazardous chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which can leak onto the food during the heating process. The EPA has recommend that PFOAs be added to the list of likely carcinogens and has also requested that manufacturers stop using the chemical by 2015. A tenacious chemical compound, some PFOAs never break down and remain in the environment for the long term. This compound has been linked to cancer and birth defects in animal studies, and early epidemiological studies indicate that pregnant women exposed to the compound may have babies with reduced birth weight.

If reading about popcorn has made you crave it, here is a healthy way to make your own popcorn minus all those pesky chemicals.


Join The Conversation
julie090583 julie090583 8 years
The problem is that food companies are not required to report the use of these types of chemicals in packaging, so they are essentially unregulated. Hate to say it, but anything that has a long shelf life probably has all sorts of bad things in the packaging that could seep into the food. Unfortunately it's hard to know which compaines are the worst offenders and which products carry the highest risk- it's my uneducated guess that the risk from popcorn comes from heating the packaging, causing the chemicals to leach.
marie-lee marie-lee 8 years
I have an air popper...I pay less than $1 Australian for a 500g bag. The air popper cost me $10. And I experiment with different toppings.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
if this chemical has been used for years and years,how come this is just coming out now? i've been eating microwave popcorn since i was little and that's 20 years ago, and i'm sure that there were plenty of people that ate it before me. it's kidn of scary to think about it. i feel like every day we're learning about something else that can cause cancer or birth defects. is nothing safe?
seryscarlett seryscarlett 8 years
Makes me glad I gave up microwave popcorn in favor of just buying old-fashioned kernals and cooking them on the stove. It takes maybe 2 more minutes to cook them on the stove. A big bag of kernals only costs $1 and they taste much better!
ElleJay ElleJay 8 years
i ALWAYS make my own homemade on the stove!
haas826 haas826 8 years
we make popcorn in a pan too. use a little smart oil and when it's just ready to pop i put in Parmesan cheese. it's way better than microwave popcorn and really doesn't take that much more time.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
I've always heard it's more of a problem for people that work in the factories that make the popcorn because of all the exposure, but I suppose eating a ton of it would maybe do that too. I personally airpop mine, so I don't have to worry about it.
psterling psterling 8 years
I think you have to eat a lot to do yourself harm, right? I think I read that somewhere.
julieulie julieulie 8 years
Yes, but how MUCH microwave popcorn would you have to eat? What is the amount given to the animals that causes cancer? Would we have to eat 3 bags worth every day for a year? Because I eat popcorn at most 5 times a year, which isn't really enough to scare me.
gabiushka gabiushka 8 years
We make air popped popcorn just with a pan in the stove top, and like it way better than the mw stuff.
Renees3 Renees3 8 years
i'm sorry, but i LOVE my popcorn. It's my favorite treat and I'm not stopping eating it! Maybe one day I'll get an air popper, but for now regular popcorn it is.
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