The Cinnamon Challenge
What are the risks?
In addition to discomfort and irritation, the “Cinnamon Challenge” poses potentially serious health risks, including pneumonia. The greatest danger is the potential for aspirating cellulose fibers in the cinnamon powder. These fibers are bioresistant and biopersistant, meaning that they do not dissolve or biodegrade in the lungs. Studies involving rats indicate that cellulose fibers can damage the lungs and remain present in the lungs for a year or more after exposure.
There are no formal studies on the effects of inhaled cinnamon in humans, but individual cases indicate the risk. At least one teen was hospitalized for a collapsed lung after attempting the “Cinnamon Challenge,” and at least 30 teens required medical attention. Not surprisingly, people with asthma or other broncho-pulmonary diseases, or allergies to cinnamon are at greater risk. For such individuals, the Challenge could prove fatal.
- American Association of Poison Control Centers (2012). Poison Centers Issue Warning About the “Cinnamon Challenge.” Retrieved 05-03-2013, from http://www.aapcc.org/press/4/.
- American Association of Poison Control Centers. Cinnamon Challenge. Retrieved 05-03-2013, from http://www.aapcc.org/alerts/cinnamon-challenge/.
- Grant-Alfieri, A, Schaechter, J, and Lipshultz, S. Ingesting and Aspirating Dry Cinnamon by Children and Adolescents: The “Cinnamon Challenge. Pediatrics. 2013 May;131(5):833-5. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-3418.
- Muhle, H, Ernst, H, Bellmann, B. Investigation of the durability of cellulose fibres in rat lungs. The Annals of Occupational Hygiene, Vol. 41, Supplement 1, 1997, pp 184-188, ISSN 0003-4878. Retrieved 05-03-2013, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003487897800361.
- Tátrai E, Adamis Z, Ungváry G. The pulmonary toxicity of cinnamon dust in rats. Indian J Med Res. 1995 Dec; 102:287-92. PMID: 8557323.
- CBS News. (2013). “Cinnamon challenge” dangerous to lungs, new report warns. CBS/AP. Retrieved 05-08-2013, from http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57580670/cinnamon-challenge-dangerous-to-lungs-new-report-warns/.
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