Is Decaffeinated Coffee Bad for You? – ConsumerReports.org

While experts agree that the Swiss Water Process and liquid carbon dioxide don’t introduce any health risks, methylene chloride is controversial in some coffee circles.

When inhaled in small doses it can cause coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. At higher doses, it can cause headache, confusion, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and fatigue, and has been found to cause liver and lung cancer in animals.

In 1999, however, the FDA concluded that the trace amounts you get in decaf coffee are too minuscule to affect your health. The agency strictly limits its presence to no more than 10 parts per million, or 0.001 percent, of the final product.

Coffee producers will sometimes say that beans decaffeinated with ethyl acetate are “naturally decaffeinated” because the compound is naturally found in some produce. But as with methylene chloride, the ethyl acetate is typically produced synthetically and carries some risks at high doses.

The bottom line, Ristenpart says, is that the solvents used in the decaffeination process today are much safer than they used to be, and they are generally found on beans only in trace amounts. 

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