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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Splenda is one of America’s most used artificial sweeteners, but a study from UNCW shows its key ingredient could be polluting area waterways.

Every day many of us use an artificial sweetener such as Splenda to sweeten our favorite cup of tea or coffee. However UNCW researchers recently found that the human body can only digest about 10 percent of the sucralose that Splenda is made of. For the other 90 percent, it goes straight into the Cape Fear River.

Fresh water. Salt water. Sweet water?

“It’s a ubiquitous occurrence in all of the samples which we looked at,” UNCW professor Ralph Meade said. “We began up in the upper Cape Fear River and basically worked our way down to the coastline and offshore to the Gulf Stream, and it was in every single one.”

UNCW researchers found sucralose everywhere, and they say we humans are the reason it’s in the water.

“Based on how much you eat or how much you drink, it goes right out, and from there it enters into the local waterways,” Meade said.

The research team says they found no evidence sucralose harms fish or wildlife, but they say more research could be needed.

Johnson & Johnson, the makers of Splenda, say the research has already happened.

“More research has been done that repeats studies of sucralose in marinelife, such as fish and crustacean species,” the company said in a statement. “The results from this recent research confirm that sucralose is not an environmental risk. Sucralose is one of the most extensively studied no-calorie sweeteners and has been used safely by millions of people around the globe for more than 20 years.”

Though sucralose causes no harm to the environment it’s still considered a pollutant since it doesn’t occur naturally.

The UNCW study started with a student’s masters thesis. The project was conducted by students under the supervision of UNCW professors.

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