If you are an avid coffee drinker, it is probably no surprise to you that coffee is, across the globe, the second most popular beverage. While tea still takes the top spot in many other countries, coffee is definitely king in America. 

It is widely believed that the coffee habit, when used as a stimulant, began in Ethiopia. The level of caffeine found in a single cup of coffee can vary significantly, depending on the specific type of coffee, as well as how the coffee is prepared, however, a cup usually has from 50-75 milligrams of caffeine. 

While some people simply could not start their day without their morning jolt of caffeine, others are highly sensitive and must drink the decaffeinated version. According to Scientific American, about 12 percent of coffee drinkers choose decaffeinated.

How Caffeine Was Originally Removed from Coffee

Whether you drink coffee full of caffeine or without caffeine, you may have wondered just how caffeine is removed from coffee. The original caffeine removal process was invented in 1905 by Ludwig Roselius. Unfortunately, Roselius used a potentially toxic substance, benzene, to extract the caffeine from green coffee beans. 

Consumer Reports expanded on Ludwig’s discovery, claiming the caffeine extraction process was actually an accident when Roselius found coffee beans soaked in seawater during shipment were much lower in caffeine.   

The seawater soak removed some of the caffeine in the coffee naturally, which set Roselius on a path to discover a method of removing caffeine for those sensitive to the stimulant. Instead of using saltwater, however, Roselius patented his method, which used the chemical solvent benzene.

Today we know that when benzene is inhaled—even in relatively small amounts—respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, and eye and skin irritation can occur. Over the long-term (and, generally, in higher doses), benzene has been linked to fetal development issues, blood disorders, and even cancer.

Safer Methods for Decaffeination

Today’s coffee manufacturers have since found safer methods to decaffeinate coffee beans. Although, many researchers believe the healthful compounds found in coffee are stripped away along with the caffeine.

There are three primary methods for decaffeinating regular coffee beans. All three methods take green, unroasted coffee beans, then soak or steam them until the caffeine is dissolved, or the pores of the coffee beans are opened. The caffeine is then extracted.

The three methods include:

  • The direct solvent method uses ethyl acetate to dissipate the caffeine, then extract it. Ethyl acetate is naturally found in apples, bananas…and coffee. The ethyl acetate is dispersed through the beans, removing a certain portion of the caffeine. The beans are then steamed, and the ethyl acetate captured in an evaporator. The process is repeated multiple times until the caffeine is mostly removed.
  • Carbon dioxide decaffeination is similar to the ethyl acetate method, however, the solvent used is carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is used in conjunction with high pressure, circulating the solvent through the beans. The carbon dioxide method typically removes 96-98 percent of the caffeine in the green coffee beans.
  • Water processing uses water as the “solvent” to take moist green coffee beans and remove the caffeine. When water processing is used, a number of vessels are used in the extraction process. Each vessel contains a different stage of caffeine removal. A green coffee extract that has already had its caffeine levels reduced is mixed with water, then circulated around the coffee beans for a specific length of time. The extract is then drawn from the vessels (which is full of caffeine) and passed through activated charcoal, where the caffeine is absorbed and discarded.

Toxic Chemical Benzene is Still Present Today

While today’s coffee manufacturers have since found safer methods to decaffeinate coffee beans, Louisiana workers are sometimes at risk of contracting diseases resulting from exposure to toxic chemicals such as benzene in an occupational setting.

Job types such as pipe fitters, painters, gasoline distribution workers and refinery workers are all at risk of coming into contact with such chemicals. Exposure to benzene has been linked directly to leukemia, a potentially fatal cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

Given the serious health effects of toxic chemicals, finding a Louisiana attorney who understands the symptoms and effects of benzene exposure is critical. At Landry & Swarr we believe that our experience with other occupational exposure diseases such as asbestos and mesothelioma gives us unique capabilities in dealing with benzene cases.

Because benzene is easily absorbed into the body it is the responsibility of employers to ensure the safety of their employees by taking measures to minimize exposure. The government has set strict exposure requirements and the courts deem failure to comply with such measures as negligence.

Contact Us

Our Louisiana benzene attorneys can help provide victims and their family’s compensation for pain, suffering and medical expenses incurred as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals. Contact Landry & Swarr today at 504-299-1214 or come by our office at 1100 Poydras St. Energy Centre – Suite 2000 New Orleans, LA 70163.