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The Dangers of Using K-Cups for Your Morning Cup of Joe

You might want to stick with your traditional coffee machine.

BY MACAELA MACKENZIE    February 24, 2016  Women’s Health

Opinions on having a morning cup of joe from a disposable coffee pod tend to be pretty divisive—you either love K-Cups or hate ‘em. But as of this week, personal opinions no longer matter for residents of one German city.

Hamburg has officially banned all coffee pods (including K-Cups) from government buildings, citing their negative environmental impact, according to CNN. But is your Keurig brew really that bad? Well, kinda.

Here are four real concerns about getting your caffeine fix from a coffee pod.

1. They Produce a Ton of Waste
Those little cups may not seem like a big deal, but think about how often you have to empty the Keurig bin at the office—those babies pile up fast. For every six grams of coffee, you’re looking at about three grams of waste—much less efficient than sticking with a more traditional brew. To put it in perspective, in 2014 Mother Jones estimated that we disposed of enough K-Cups to wrap around the world 10.5 times. Damn.

coffee

2. They Aren’t Biodegradable
Since they contain more than one type of material, K-Cups are extremely difficult to recycle. In an effort to be more eco-friendly, Keurig has promised to make their cups recyclable—but not until 2020. Until then, you’ll have to separate the aluminum top from the plastic cup yourself and then find a special recycling service.

3. They Contain Aluminum
The fact that K-Cups contain aluminum is also not great for the environment. Even if all that aluminum doesn’t end up in a landfill (and that can pile up with some serious speed), recycling aluminum produces some toxic byproducts that have to be buried in a landfill anyway. Not a problem you have to deal with if you’re using an old-fashioned coffee filter.

4. They Could Pose a Hazard to Your Health
K-Cups have been confirmed to be BPA-free and made of “safe” plastic, but some studies show that even this type of material can have harmful effects when heated. When you come into contact with these plastic chemicals, they can act like estrogen in your body, throwing your hormones out of whack.

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4 Surprising Foods Packed With Estrogen — The Chemical Linked to Obesity and Sexual Dysfunction

Many otherwise healthy foods contain high levels of estrogen.

April 10, 2014 

It is no secret that our bodies and our environment are swimming in estrogen. Puberty is occurring as early as eight years old in children and recently babies in China have developed breasts. Frogs and fish are becoming “intersex” and losing their male characteristics from excreted estrogens in the environment and waterways. In England, the Daily Mail ran a feature on the phenomenon of women’s bra cup sizes increasing independent of their weights, likely because of environmental and livestock chemicals. The website Green Prophet speculated that women in the Middle East are not yet experiencing cup inflation because their environments have not become similarly estrogenized.

While many people are fans of big boobs, the larger issue of feminized women, men and wildlife should be a wakeup call. Estrogen is blamed for everything from breast and prostate cancer and other hormone-linked conditions to obesity, sexual dysfunction, dropping sperm counts and depression and mood disorders. In studies of women given prescribed hormone drugs, estrogen was linked to lung cancer, ovarian cancer, skin cancer, gall bladder cancer, cataracts urinary incontinence and joint degeneration.

Most of us know we unwittingly get synthetic estrogens (endocrine disrupters) from plastics like BPA, petroleum based products, detergents, cosmetics, furniture, carpeting, thermal receipts and on our food from agriculture chemicals like pesticides, herbicides and fungicides (a good reason to buy organic). But we also get a lot of “natural” estrogens from foods we may eat every day. While these “phytoestrogens” are not as bad as synthetic chemicals, women who are plagued with PMS, fibrocystic disease and water retention, or who are at risk for breast cancer and men who do not want to be feminized may want to use them moderately.

Here are some “good” and “bad” foods that have more estrogen than you may realize—or want.

1. Flax

Flax and especially flax meal has the image of being a healthy superfood. But when you look at a list of the top phytoestrogen-containing foods, flax and flax products are at the very top. A hundred grams of flax packs an astounding 379,380 micrograms of estrogen compared with 2.9 micrograms for a fruit like watermelon. Flax is now widely found in baked goods like bread, bagels and muffins, snack foods, cereals, pasta, drink mixes and used in poultry, swine, beef and dairy cow feed.

It became a popular alternative to fish oil which had been promoted to improve mood, the immune systems and to prevent heart attacks and strokes, especially as concerns about mercury risks in some fish surfaced. A tablespoon of flaxseed oil, which contains alpha-linolenic acid (also found in walnuts and some oils) is “worth” about 700 milligrams of the omega-3 found in fish oil says the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. Flax also provides fiber, a substance lacking in our over-processed diets. But there is another reason it may not be the superfood it appears besides its estrogen wallop. Like so many edible plants today, genetically modified versions of flax are rampant, spreading and rarely labeled. Buyer beware.

tofu and soybeans

2. Soy

What is the second highest phytoestrogen-containing food in most lists? Soy, which packs 103,920 micrograms of estrogen per 100 grams. Low in calories and with no cholesterol, soy has been a mainstay protein of many cultures for centuries and is considered nature’s perfect alternative to meat by many vegetarians and vegans. It has been hailed as a “good” estrogen that could prevent breast cancer and serve as an alternative for hormone replacement therapy, traditionally made from pregnant mare urine.

Yet the bloom has partially fallen off soy’s rose. Its possible cancer prevention properties were called into question after some animal studies and groups like the American Cancer Society found themselves defending its moderate use. Like flax, unlabeled GMO soybeans dominate the market and have been linked to sterility and infant death in hamsters.

3. Other Legumes and Common Health Foods

Other “healthy” foods like flax and soy may have more estrogen than you think. Legumes like chickpeas (garbanzo beans) red beans, black-eyed peas, green peas and split peas are also estrogenic and black beans pack 5,330 micrograms of estrogen per 100 grams. Hummus (from chickpeas) has 993 micrograms of estrogen per 100 grams. How about the “healthful” seeds we think of as mingled in trailmix? Sesame and sunflower seeds are among the highest of all estrogenic foods. While their seeds are not a staple of most people’s diets, their oils are widely used in processed and prepared foods. A site for women suffering from the estrogen-linked endometriosis advises against sunflower oil as well as safflower, cottonseed and canola oils and recommends only olive or grapeseed oil.

Other ingredients that can amount to a side dish of estrogen are alfalfa sprouts, licorice and the flavorings red clover and fennel, sometimes found in teas. Food ingredients in personal care products can also have estrogenic effects. Tea tree oil found in some shampoos, soaps and lotions can enlarge the breasts of boys reported ABC news. And sore and tender breasts have also been reported from using a shampoo with pomegranate.

4. Animal Products

On most lists of products containing estrogen, animal products like milk and beef are at the very bottom. Milk, for example, is said to provide 1.2 micrograms of estrogen per 100 grams. Unfortunately, most “research” that assures the public that hormones used in meat production or milk production (like Monsanto’s  rBGH) result in less estrogen are funded by Big Ag. Two features betray the Big Ag-funded research —it claims there is no difference between hormones that occur “naturally” in the human body and synthetic hormones, and it claims there are no residues of the latter. If synthetic hormones are so safe, why would we mind residues? The European Union disagrees about the dangers and boycotts US beef, which is swimming in the hormones oestradiol-17, trenbolone acetate, zeranol and melengestrol.

As for “no residues,” a scientific paper called “Detection of Six Zeranol Residues in Animal-derived Food by HPLC-MS/MS,” disputes the claim. Zeranol, an estrogen-like drug widely used in US livestock production is especially controversial. “Our laboratory has reported that long-term exposure to either Z [zeranol] or E2 [estradiol-17β] can induce transformation of human breast epithelial MCF-10A cells,” says a 2009 paper in Anticancer Research.Translation: it can contribute to breast cancer: “The proper evaluation of the safety of Z [zeranol] is of both public health and economic  importance.”Another paper reports “breast irritation” in people exposed to nothing but the clothing of those working around zeranol. This is an ingredient used in US meat?

A paper which appeared in Science of the Total Environment examines the outbreak of precocious puberty and breast development of children in Italy and Puerto Rico in the late 1970s and 1980s and attributes the symptoms to zeranol-like “anabolic estrogens in animal foods.” In both occurrences, the symptoms disappeared when the hormone-laced food was removed. Zeranol is found in meat, eggs and dairy products “through deliberate introduction of zeranol into livestock to enhance meat production,” says the paper. It is “banned for use in animal husbandry in the European Union and other countries, but is still widely used in the US. Surprisingly, little is known about the health effects of these mycoestrogens, including their impact on puberty in girls, a period highly sensitive to estrogenic stimulation.”

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter and the author of “Born With a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Random House).”