Arsenic Warning

January 4, 2012 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Increased risk of birth defects, cancer and cardiovascular disease are not typically associated with the consumption of “wholesome” foods such as fruit juice and rice. After all, these menu options are 100% natural and frequently recommended as part of a healthy, low fat meal plan for adults and children alike. However, even if you set aside the high glycemic (ie blood sugar elevating) nature of these foods, you should still consider the possibility that they may be contaminated with the heavy metal arsenic.

Several examinations published in 2011 confirm that rice and rice products contribute a significant amount of arsenic to the modern food supply. Products ranging from baby food to common varieties of rice eaten worldwide have been implicated in this emerging health threat. In fact, a current paper appearing in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes that, “Our findings along with others indicate that rice consumption should be considered when designing arsenic reduction strategies”. And, while measures such as organic farming and purifying irrigation water may reduce arsenic concentrations, only case-by-case testing can verify the efficacy of these preventive practices. Also of concern is recent testing conducted by Consumer Reports. The independent analysis revealed that two popular beverages, apple and grape juice, often contain unacceptably high arsenic concentrations – exceeding US federal-drinking water standards.

Presently, agricultural scientists and health agencies are considering various methods of lowering the average person’s dietary arsenic burden. But, I don’t think you need to wait for a systemic change in how these foods are grown and processed. For the time being, I think it’s best to limit your intake of the aforementioned juices and rice in general. Far better options include organic nuts and seeds, whole fruits and vegetables which tend to be higher in antioxidants, fiber and nutrients.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Arsenic Contents in Spanish Infant Rice, Pureed Infant Foods (link)

Study 2 – Rice Consumption Contributes to Arsenic Exposure in US Women (link)

Study 3 – Variation in Grain Arsenic Assessed in a Diverse Panel of Rice(link)

Study 4 – Genotypic Differences in Arsenic, Mercury, Lead and Cadmium (link)

Study 5 – High Levels of Inorganic Arsenic in Rice in Areas Where Arsenic (link)

Study 6 – The Impact of a Rice Based Diet on Urinary Arsenic (link)

Study 7 – Arsenic Contamination in Sesame and Possible Mitigation Through (link)

Study 8 – Contaminants and Microorganisms in Dutch Organic Food Products … (link)

Study 9 – Arsenic and Lead Residues in Carrots from Foliar Applications of (link)

Study 10 – Arsenic in Your Juice: How Much is Too Much? (link)

Rice Can Be a Major Dietary Contributor of Arsenic

Source: Environ Health Perspect. 2009 April; 117(4): 632–638. (link)

Tags: , , ,
Posted in Detoxification, Food and Drink, Women's Health

10 Comments & Updates to “Arsenic Warning”

  1. Mia B. Says:

    WOW! JP… this is highly interesting (& equally ‘scary’) information-! I did not know of this; thanks for providing such important & up-to-the-minute news. Also good to know my daughter plans to make her own organic baby food…once babies come along!
    ps: loved your Helen Keller quote via Twitter.
    Keep tweeting. ; )

  2. JP Says:

    Many thanks, Mia! 🙂

    I love the idea of homemade baby food. Excellent!

    Be well!


  3. norma fraga Says:

    My only rice that my family eats is Inute instant whole grain brown rice. The other part of the family eats, Mahanma white rice. I will like to know about the arsenic on the rice ? Most people in Miami eats rice twice a day we are very scared.

  4. norma fraga Says:

    Is the Minute Instant whole train Brown rice, and also tha mahanma white rice that sells on stores safe to eat, free of arsenic, my family eats that kinds of rice, and twice a day what is the true behind all of these?

  5. JP Says:

    Hi Norma,

    I suggest contacting the manufacturers and asking if they test for arsenic as part of their quality control process. If so, is the information available for public review.

    I’ve visited both of their sites and they assert that their rice is indeed safe. However, I didn’t see any details to support this – beyond generalized statements.

    One study from 2007 indicates that rice from the US west coast (California) contains less arsenic than rice grown in the south-central US.

    Here’s some brand info. re: arsenic in rice drinks:

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Update 4/13/15:

    Environ Res. 2015 Apr 8;140:205-213.

    Kidney function and blood pressure in preschool-aged children exposed to cadmium and arsenic – potential alleviation by selenium.

    BACKGROUND: Early-life exposure to toxic compounds may cause long-lasting health effects, but few studies have investigated effects of childhood exposure to nephrotoxic metals on kidney and cardiovascular function.

    OBJECTIVES: To assess effects of exposure to arsenic and cadmium on kidney function and blood pressure in pre-school-aged children, and potential protection by selenium.

    METHODS: This cross-sectional study was part of the 4.5 years of age (range: 4.4-5.4 years) follow-up of the children from a supplementation trial in pregnancy (MINIMat) in rural Bangladesh, and nested studies on early-life metal exposures. Exposure to arsenic, cadmium and selenium from food and drinking water was assessed by concentrations in children’s urine, measured by ICP-MS. Kidney function was assessed by the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR, n=1106), calculated from serum cystatin C, and by kidney volume, measured by ultrasound (n=375). Systolic and diastolic blood pressure was measured (n=1356) after five minutes rest.

    RESULTS: Multivariable-adjusted regression analyzes showed that exposure to cadmium, but not arsenic, was inversely associated with eGFR, particularly in girls. A 0.5µg/L increase in urinary cadmium among the girls (above spline knot at 0.12) was associated with a decrease in eGFR of 2.6ml/min/1.73m2, corresponding to 0.2SD (p=0.022). A slightly weaker inverse association with cadmium was also indicated for kidney volume, but no significant associations were found with blood pressure. Stratifying on children’s urinary selenium (below or above median of 12.6µg/L) showed a three times stronger inverse association of U-Cd with eGFR (all children) in the lower selenium stratum (B=-2.8; 95% CI: -5.5, -0.20; p=0.035), compared to those with higher selenium (B=-0.79; 95% CI: -3.0, 1.4; p=0.49).

    CONCLUSIONS: Childhood cadmium exposure seems to adversely affect kidney function, but not blood pressure, in this population of young children in rural Bangladesh. Better selenium status appears to be protective. However, it is important to follow up these children to assess potential long-term consequences of these findings.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Update: 4/13/15:

    Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2014;65(4):281-6.

    Human exposure asseessment to different arsenic species in tea.

    BACKGROUND: Inorganic forms of arsenic are much more highly toxic to humans than organic species. Their effects include being carcinogenic, genotoxic and neurotoxic, where in the latter case, above all, they affect nervous system development in the foetus, infants and children. The main foodstuffs contributing significantly to its total dietary intake are drinking water, rice (and its products), fish, seafood, cereals, seaweed, root vegetables, food supplements, mushrooms and tea. After water, tea is the second most popular beverage drunk in Poland with average consumption annually indicating that statistically every Polish inhabitant drinks at least one cup of tea daily.

    OBJECTIVES: The aim of the study was to determine the total and inorganic content of arsenic in various black and green teas available on the market and thus to estimate consumer exposure to inorganic arsenic from this foodstuff.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: Analyses of total and inorganic arsenic were performed on 23 samples of black and green teas that consisted of tea leaves, teas in bags and granules, from various sources. The analytical method was hydride generation atomic absorption spectrometry (HGAAS), after dry ashing of samples and reduction of arsenic to arsenic hydride using sodium borohydride. In order to isolate only the inorganic forms of arsenic prior to mineralisation, samples were subjected to concentrated HCl hydrolysis, followed by reduction with hydrobromic acid and hydrazine sulphate after which triple chloroform extractions and triple 1M HCl re-extractions were performed. Exposure of adults was estimated in relation to the Benchmark Dose Lower Confidence Limit (BMDL05) as set by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) that resulted in a 0.5% increase in lung cancer (3.0 μg/kg body weight (b.w.) per day).

    RESULTS: Green teas were found to be more highly contaminated with both total and inorganic arsenic than black teas. Contamination of black teas total and inorganic arsenic was mean: 0.058 mg/kg (median: 0.042 mg/kg, 90th percentile: 0.114 mg/kg), and 0.030 mg/kg, (median: 0.025 mg/kg, 90th percentile: 0.030 mg/kg) respectively. Whilst for the green teas, these were correspondingly mean total arsenic content: 0.134 mg/kg (median: 0.114 mg/kg, 90th percentile: 0.234 mg/kg) and inorganic arsenic, mean: 0.100 mg/kg (median: 0.098 mg/kg, 90th percentile: 0.150 mg/kg). The estimated average adult exposures to inorganic arsenic in black and green tea were less than 1% of the BMDL05. Green tea samples, with the high¬est measured inorganic arsenic, were found to cause an intake exceeding 0.5% of the BMDL05 value. However when the drinking water is also accounted for when teas are prepared, then the exposure from black and green tea becomes exceeding 0.7% and 1.3% of the BMDL05 value respectively.

    CONCLUSIONS: Findings thus demonstrate that drinking black or green teas does not pose a significant health threat to consumers, even though contaminations in some individual samples were significant.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 07/27/15:

    PLoS One. 2015 Jul 22;10(7):e0131608.

    Rethinking Rice Preparation for Highly Efficient Removal of Inorganic Arsenic Using Percolating Cooking Water.

    A novel way of cooking rice to maximize the removal of the carcinogen inorganic arsenic (Asi) is presented here. In conventional rice cooking water and grain are in continuous contact, and it is known that the larger the water:rice cooking ratio, the more Asi removed by cooking, suggesting that the Asi in the grain is mobile in water. Experiments were designed where rice is cooked in a continual stream of percolating near boiling water, either low in Asi, or Asi free. This has the advantage of not only exposing grain to large volumes of cooking water, but also physically removes any Asi leached from the grain into the water receiving vessel. The relationship between cooking water volume and Asi removal in conventional rice cooking was demonstrated for the rice types under study. At a water-to-rice cooking ratio of 12:1, 57±5% of Asi could be removed, average of 6 wholegrain and 6 polished rice samples. Two types of percolating technology were tested, one where the cooking water was recycled through condensing boiling water steam and passing the freshly distilled hot water through the grain in a laboratory setting, and one where tap water was used to cook the rice held in an off-the-shelf coffee percolator in a domestic setting. Both approaches proved highly effective in removing Asi from the cooking rice, with up to 85% of Asi removed from individual rice types. For the recycled water experiment 59±8% and 69±10% of Asi was removed, on average, compared to uncooked rice for polished (n=27) and wholegrain (n=13) rice, respectively. For coffee percolation there was no difference between wholegrain and polished rice, and the effectiveness of Asi removal was 49±7% across 6 wholegrain and 6 polished rice samples. The manuscript explores the potential applications and further optimization of this percolating cooking water, high Asi removal, discovery.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Updated 11/27/15:

    J Environ Health. 2015 Oct;78(3):16-22.

    Arsenic Content in American Wine.

    Recent studies that have investigated arsenic content in juice, rice, milk, broth (beef and chicken), and other foods have stimulated an interest in understanding how prevalent arsenic contamination is in the U.S. food and beverage supply. The study described here focused on quantifying arsenic levels in wine. A total of 65 representative wines from the top four wine-producing states in the U.S. were analyzed for arsenic content. All samples contained arsenic levels that exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) exposure limit for drinking water of 10 parts per billion (ppb) and all samples contained inorganic arsenic. The average arsenic detected among all samples studied was 23.3 ppb. Lead, a common co-contaminant to arsenic, was detected in 58% of samples tested, but only 5% exceeded the U.S. EPA exposure limit for drinking water of 15 ppb. Arsenic levels in American wines exceeded those found in other studies involving water, bottled water, apple juice, apple juice blend, milk, rice syrup, and other beverages. When taken in the context of consumption patterns in the U.S., the pervasive presence of arsenic in wine can pose a potential health risk to regular adult wine drinkers.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Updated 1/25/18:

    J Sci Food Agric. 2018 Jan 24.

    Effects of washing, soaking, and domestic cooking on cadmium, arsenic, and lead bioaccessibilities in rice.

    BACKGROUND: The health risk of cadmium (Cd), arsenic (As), and lead (Pb) in rice can be assessed by concentration and bioacceessibility of these heavy metals. In this work, japonica cultivar Xinfeng 2 and indica cultivar T-You 15 were washed, soaked, and cooked using three common domestic cooking methods. The present study investigated the effects of washing, soaking, normal cooking, high- pressure cooking, and microwave cooking on concentration, bioaccessibility, and health risk assessment of heavy metals (i.e., Cd, As, and Pb) in rice.

    RESULTS: Washing significantly reduced concentrations of Cd, As, and Pb, and all three types of cooking reduced bioaccessibilities of these elements. No significant difference was observed in bioaccessibility among rice prepared with various cooking methods. Concentration and bioaccessibilities of Cd, As, and Pb highly affected the values of average daily dose, hazard quotient, and life time cancer risk. High concentration and bioaccessibility cause As to pose noncarcinogenic and carcinogenic health risks to adults and children. Moreover, compared with adults, children feature high chance of exposure to noncarcinogenic and carcinogenic health risks.

    CONCLUSION: Washing and cooking of rice lowered the health risk via reducing Cd, As, and Pb concentrations and bioaccessiblities, respectively.

    Be well!


Leave a Comment