Sugar free products have revolutionized the food industry and provided sugary tasting options for those suffering from diabetes and other illnesses. However, many sugar free products are often not digestible by our bodies, resulting in their ending up in wastewater and ultimately in the aquatic environment.

Sucralose, which is most often found under the Splenda brand name, is one such artificial sweetener that remains in the water cycle for more than a year. The use of sucralose is estimated to continue to increase in the coming years, and as a result, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has flagged it as an emerging environmental contaminant.

Virender K. Sharma, Ph.D., professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, reviewed different methods of transforming sucralose in water. His review was recently published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research.

In “Oxidation of Artificial Sweetener Sucralose by Advanced Oxidation Processes: A Review,” Sharma indicates that of all the water purifying procedures reviewed, the only one that showed success was an advanced oxidation system that generates hydroxyl radicals using chemical and electrochemical approaches.

Using the chemical approach, hydroxyl radicals are produced in the water contaminated with sucralose with the aid of ozone, hydrogen peroxide, oxygen, and ultraviolet light or catalysts (for example titanium dioxide). In an electrochemical approach, electrodes immersed in contaminated water at a certain voltage are able to generate hydroxyl radicals. In both cases, sucralose rapidly degraded when hydroxyl radicals were introduced.

“These processes seem to be economical; however, a feasibility study on a large scale must be performed to realize the full potential of this approach.”

— Rae Lynn Mitchell

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