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Surprising Science

Why Lake Erie’s Waters May Be Dangerously Sweet

A study investigating the presence of potentially harmful chemicals in the lake has added a new one to its list: sucralose, known commercially as Splenda.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

Researchers at Mercyhurst University have added sucralose, a commonly used artificial sweetener found in a range of products, to their list of potentially dangerous chemicals contaminating the beach waters of Lake Erie at Presque Isle State Park. Preliminary studies have found detectable levels of the substance, and with the help of a grant, the team hopes to determine its impact on the lake’s ecosystem.

What’s the Big Idea?

Sucralose is a chlorinated form of sucrose, and chlorinated compounds have been found to be toxic to humans. The specific effects of this compound have yet to be determined, but according to Mercyhurst professor Amy Parente, “Studies suggest that approximately 95 percent of ingested sucralose is not metabolized by the body and is excreted into the water supply.” The presence of sucralose in lake water can affect the water’s taste and may have other biological repercussions. It can also impact organisms’ ability to regulate their feeding, deceiving them into believing they have enough food and affecting their long-term survival.

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