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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Energy drinks have landed on the radar screen of one U.S. senator following a teenager's death five months ago after drinking two 24-ounce energy drinks in a 24-hour span.
On Wednesday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) sent a letter to the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calling for an investigation into the alternative beverages -- such as Monster Energy, Rockstar and Red Bull -- after hearing that a 14-year-old girl from Maryland died in December of a cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity upon drinking two 24-ounce energy drinks in a 24-hour period, according to a release on the legislator's website.
"Consuming large quantities of caffeine can have serious health consequences, including caffeine toxicity, stroke, anxiety, arrhythmia, and in some cases, death. Young people are especially susceptible to suffering adverse effects because energy drinks market to youth, their bodies are not accustomed to caffeine, and energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and stimulating additives that may interact when used in combination," Durbin wrote. "The glossy marketing tailored to youth has worked -- 30 [percent] to 50 percent of adolescents report consuming energy drinks."
According to a recent NBC News report, the 14-year-old girl died after drinking two energy drinks, which together contained 480 milligrams of caffeine, five times the limit recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. She allegedly went into cardiac arrest and died from cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity, Durbin's news release stated.
A 2011 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that emergency room visits due to energy drink consumption increased tenfold between 2005 and 2009. The report also found that of these emergency room visits, 45 percent were young people between the ages of 18 and 25, and 56 percent were due to energy drinks alone, and not energy drinks used with alcohol, drugs or medications, according to the release.
In his letter, Durbin urged the FDA to take action to enforce the caffeine levels in energy drinks. The FDA has already implemented a limit on the caffeine levels in soft drinks to .02 percent or less of the product -- about 71 milligrams in a 12-ounce soda. However, the FDA limit is not actively enforced for energy drinks.
"If the FDA makes a determination that energy drinks are beverages with high levels of caffeine and additives that raise safety concerns, the agency would have the authority to limit the level of caffeine and require the manufacturers to provide scientific evidence that ingredients such as guarana, taurine and ginseng are safe for their intended use and in combination with caffeine and other energy drink ingredients," he wrote.