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Yes, There's Arsenic In Your Rice. But Is That Bad?

 
 
Reply Fri 17 Feb, 2012 11:47 am
Yes, There's Arsenic In Your Rice. But Is That Bad?
February 16, 2012
by Nancy Shute - NPR

Rice plants absorb arsenic from soil, and some if it makes it to the bowl.

Is there arsenic in your rice? Probably. That's the news behind a study that found surprisingly high levels of arsenic in rice-based organic toddler formula and energy bars.

One toddler formula with organic brown rice syrup as the primary ingredient had arsenic concentrations six times the federal limit of 10 parts per billion for arsenic in drinking water.

Cereal bars that contained rice products like brown rice syrup or rice flour had arsenic levels ranging from 23 to 128 parts per billion, according to researchers at Dartmouth College, who tested the products.

There are no federal limits for the amount of arsenic that's acceptable in food. So it's impossible to know if eating arsenic at these levels is a problem.

"For people who just occasionally eat cereal bars, I don't see a problem," says Brian Jackson, the analytical chemist who led the study, which was published today in Environmental Science and Technology.

"But for the toddler formula, until we know what a safe arsenic concentration is, I'd recommend discontinuing that formula," Jackson told The Salt. That's because young children are more susceptible to chemicals because they are still developing, and their bodies are much smaller than adults.

People on gluten-free diets who eat a lot of rice-based foods should try to diversify their grains, Jackson says. But he says what's really needed are federal standards for arsenic in food.

He says brown rice tends to have more arsenic than white rice, but that arsenic levels vary greatly depending on where and when rice is grown, and there's as of yet no measure of what types of rice are more likely to have low levels.

So why is arsenic in rice?

The plant apparently has an affinity for arsenic, a toxic element that occurs naturally in soil and groundwater. "It turns out that rice needs to take up silica," Jackson explained, "and in paddy conditions, arsenic is chemically very similar to silica."

Arsenic in drinking water has been studied for a long time; it's a big problem in Bangladesh, and also can be an issue in the United States. Exposure can cause thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, numbness in hands and feet, partial paralysis and blindness, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Arsenic also increases the risk of bladder cancer and other cancers.

Only in the past decade have researchers been looking at whether arsenic also makes its way into food. Andrew Meharg, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Aberdeen, has been charting exposure for people in Southeast Asia, who eat rice every day. He found that because arsenic-tainted wells are used to irrigate rice paddies, the amount of arsenic in rice has increased tenfold in some areas of Bangladesh.

Last December, Jackson published a study that found that pregnant women in New Hampshire who ate rice were more likely to have arsenic in their urine. Each gram of rice consumed was associated with a 1 percent increase in total urinary arsenic.

They say that eating about a half-cup of cooked rice daily was equivalent to drinking a liter of water with arsenic at the maximum 10 parts per billion level considered safe by the EPA. But that standard was set for water, which people drink a lot of every day. So it's impossible to extrapolate risk from that to one food.

Arsenic also shows up in apple and grape juice, according to tests conducted by Consumer Reports. As a result of those tests, earlier this month legislation was introduced calling for the Food and Drug Administration to establish standards for arsenic and lead in fruit juice.
 
Joe Nation
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Feb, 2012 12:45 pm
Quote:
Each gram of rice consumed was associated with a 1 percent increase in total urinary arsenic.


gah!

Joe(tat's a lot)Nation
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Feb, 2012 01:07 pm
@Joe Nation,
Joe Nation wrote:

Quote:
Each gram of rice consumed was associated with a 1 percent increase in total urinary arsenic.


gah!

Joe(tat's a lot)Nation

At least it is being excreted... What about the children???
Joe Nation
 
  2  
Reply Fri 17 Feb, 2012 01:22 pm
@Fido,
and that's also the point, they are measuring the EXCRETED amounts.

How much is still in me latching onto godknowswhat?

Joe(arsenic likes hemoglobin)Nation
edgarblythe
 
  3  
Reply Fri 17 Feb, 2012 01:42 pm
(Reuters) - Scientists in China have demonstrated how arsenic -- a favorite murder weapon in the Middle Ages -- destroys deadly blood cancer by targeting and killing specific proteins that keep the cancer alive.

"Our study showed how arsenic directly targets these proteins and kills them," lead researcher Zhang Xiaowei at the State Key Laboratory of Medical Genomics in Shanghai, China, told Reuters.

"Unlike chemotherapy, the side effects of arsenic (in treating acute promyelocytic leukemia) are very low. There is no hair loss or suppression of bone marrow (function). We are interested in finding out how arsenic can be used in other cancers," Zhang said by telephone.

Well known for its toxicity, arsenic was regarded in the past as the king among poisons because its symptoms are like those of cholera and can often go undetected.

In China, however, it has long served a dual purpose. Apart from intentional poisoning, it has been used for at least 2,000 years in traditional Chinese medicine.

In 1992, a group of Chinese doctors reported how they used arsenic to treat acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a blood and bone marrow cancer that has surprisingly high cure rates of over 90 percent in China.

However, the actual workings of arsenic and how it interacts with cancer tissues has never been clear -- until Zhang and his colleagues used modern technology to find out.

In a paper published in the journal Science, Zhang and his team, which includes Health Minister Chen Zhu, described how they used modern equipment and saw how arsenic attacked specific proteins that would otherwise be keeping the cancer alive and well.

"This shows how Western technology can be used to find out about the mysteries of Chinese medicine," Zhang said.

"Although many countries are now using arsenic to treat APL, some countries are resistant to the idea. It depends a lot on whether doctors recommend it and whether patients accept it."

In APL, there is a drop in the production of normal red blood cells and platelets, resulting in anemia and thrombocytopenia. The bone marrow is unable to produce healthy red blood cells. Until the 1970s, APL was 100 percent fatal and there was no effective treatment.

"The clinical result of arsenic in treating APL is well-established. More than 90 percent of APL patients in China have (at least) five years of disease-free survival," Zhang said.

In a separate commentary in Science, Scott Kogan at the University of California San Francisco Cancer Center wrote that proper case selection and combination therapy with arsenic may lead to improved outcomes for treating not only promyelocytic leukemia, but other diseases as well.

"If so, an ancient medicine, revived through careful clinical and biological studies in modern times, will have an even greater impact on human health," wrote Kogan, who was not linked to the Chinese study.

BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Feb, 2012 01:47 pm
@edgarblythe,
Thanks for the additional information.

BBB
0 Replies
 
Fido
 
  0  
Reply Fri 17 Feb, 2012 01:49 pm
@Joe Nation,
Joe Nation wrote:

and that's also the point, they are measuring the EXCRETED amounts.

How much is still in me latching onto godknowswhat?

Joe(arsenic likes hemoglobin)Nation
Look on the bright side... Dying may be the only condition preventing you from becoming a spoiled, used up,vapid brained republican... Death before dishonor, man; and that is what we should all pray for...
Joe Nation
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Feb, 2012 01:57 pm
@Fido,
If I was offered a choice between becoming a Republican or drinking a cup of arsenic, I'd slug the first cup down quickly and ask for another.

Joe(With a little ice and soda, please) Nation
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Feb, 2012 04:56 pm
@Joe Nation,
arsenic can accumulate and can do you in many years after youve begun ingesting it in water or veggies.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Feb, 2012 05:14 pm
@farmerman,
No problem, at least half the people I know are vegetable avoidant.
roger
 
  2  
Reply Fri 17 Feb, 2012 06:35 pm
@ossobuco,
Hey! Ketchup is a vegetable, too, ya know. I use lots of ketchup.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Feb, 2012 07:38 pm
@roger,
One of the scenarios between my niece and me was that I had a friend who...

well, she's a landscape architect, design teacher, costume designer, weaver, totally crazed cook, and so on, but my niece remembers her as the woman who made her own ketchup.

I'm out of this, I never understood ketchup.

Hers probably were not arsenic in bottles.
0 Replies
 
 

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