By Tina Alvey
Eastern Greenbrier Middle School students Brett Napier and Emily Swann won first place in psychology for Division II (grades 6-8) at the West Virginia Social Studies Fair in April. The first place finish was their second in three years.
The pair’s project, “Do You Do Dye,” focused on red dye 40, including everything from why companies use it in food to the dangerous side effects.
“We surveyed 100 people to see how much they knew about red dye 40, and we were surprised by how little people knew about it,” Brett said. “Most people knew red dye 40 is found in Froot Loops and M&Ms, but few knew that it is also in Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and vanilla icing.”
“Only 11 percent of the people we surveyed were aware of the side effects, and 51 percent didn’t know how much red dye 40 they consume,” Emily said.
“Companies use red dye 40 to make food look more appealing and because it is cheaper than more natural alternatives,” she explained. “Red dye 40 can cause hyperactivity, ADHD, allergy-like symptoms, asthma and eczema. It is even linked to autism and lower IQs.”
Emily added, “We feel people need to be better educated about red dye and the potential dangers, especially to children.”
Some medicines also contain red dye, the two sixth- graders discovered.
“The problem is, some parents would give their children these medicines, such as Benadryl, to help alleviate the allergy symptoms, when the medicine was actually making it worse,” Brett said.
The two EGMS students plan to create a video of their presentation and submit it to Channel One, a television channel that is shown in more than 7,000 schools across the country. They also hope to address community organizations concerning the issue.
The Greenbrier County Board of Education recognized Emily and Brett, along with the other students who competed in the state Social Studies Fair, during a board meeting staged at EGMS. The two first-place winners also received certificates of recognition from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
Brett is the son of Cindi and Kevin Napier, and Emily is the daughter of Lynn and Bill Swann.