High Arsenic Levels Found in Rice

High Arsenic Levels Found in Rice

organic rice often no better than conventionally-grown 

Who would have thought that arsenic would be a problem in rice, especially in organically-grown rice? Or that brown rice, which is normally healthier than polished white rice, would actually contain higher levels of arsenic than white.

Well, don’t blame the organic farmer. It’s high levels of arsenic in the environment, especially in the ground water and soils, that’s the problem. So says an upcoming article in Consumer Reports (CR) that’s already created quite a stir, even capturing the attention of the Federal Drug Administration, which has promised to look into the situation more thoroughly.     

Last January, CR found high levels of arsenic in fruit juices, and recommended that children be given very restricted amounts. (We don’t recommend fruit juice for children or adults because it’s too concentrated a source of sugar — better to eat the whole fruit – but high arsenic levels are now another good reason to avoid fruit juice.)

But CR found even more alarming levels of arsenic in rice, according to the new report, which will be published in the November 2012 issue and is already available online.  One study they cited found the same amount of arsenic in a little more than a half cup of rice as in a day’s ration (a liter) of water with the federally mandated maximum allowable arsenic content of 10 parts per billion (ppb). Infant rice cereals tested contained 5 times as much arsenic as oatmeal and other infant cereal alternatives.

Rice absorbs arsenic from both soil and water more effectively than most plants; it’s also grown in water-flooded conditions, which allows the arsenic to be even more readily taken up. Brown rice contains more arsenic than white because arsenic tends to concentrate in the outer layers of a grain. Polishing the rice removes those surface layers, which can contain 10-20 times more arsenic than the rest of the grain.

Where is all this arsenic coming from? Although some arsenic is found in nature, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s estimates that human activities contribute 3 times this amount, primarily from agricultural and industrial use. The United States has been one of the world’s largest arsenic consumers; about 1.6 million tons since 1910. It certainly doesn’t help that most fluoride added to our public drinking water is an industrial waste product that contains arsenic along with other impurities.

Although it takes an amount of arsenic equal to the weight of a postage stamp to kill someone, even tiny amounts are dangerous. This is because arsenic accumulates in the body over time, causing or contributing to all manner of disease including various cancers,  cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes, as well as reproductive, gastrointestinal, immune and nervous system problems. Levels in drinking water lower than the 10 ppb maximum mandated in the US caused diminished intelligence in children in Bangladesh in a 2004 study.

More work needs to be done to track the effects of arsenic on US health. CR quotes Joshua Hamilton, PhD, a toxicologist specializing in arsenic research at Marine Biological Lab in Woods Hole, Mass, as pointing out, “People sometimes say, ‘If arsenic exposure is so bad, why don’t you see more people sick or dying from it?’ But the many diseases likely to be increased by exposure even at relatively low levels are so common already that its effects are overlooked simply because no one has looked carefully for the connections.” Michael Harbut, MD, chief of the environmental cancer program at Karmanos Institute in Detroit, tells CR, “Given what we know about the wide range of arsenic exposure sources we have in this country, I suspect there is an awful lot of chronic, low-level arsenic poisoning going on that’s never properly diagnosed.”

What to do?
1) Minimize rice in your diet, and use other grains like quinoa, millet, amaranth and teff. (Many people feel better forgoing grains altogether, and for others trying to reverse serious illness, eliminating grains may be a necessity.) Organic rice is usually no better than conventional when it comes to arsenic.  Even conventional rice-growers don’t use arsenic-containing insecticides or fertilizers; the problem is soil where arsenic-containing products (most of which were banned in the 1980s) were used decades ago. For example, most US rice is grown in the central southern states, on land where cotton was the dominant crop for many years. Arsenic-containing pesticides and fertilizers have left this land riddled with arsenic. Rice grown in California, where the land has a different history, has been found to contain 41% less arsenic.

2) CR recommends a way of cooking rice that flushes out about 30% of the rice’s inorganic arsenic: Rinse the rice thoroughly before cooking, then cook using a ratio of 6 cups of water to 1 cup of rice. When the rice is cooked, drain off the excess liquid. This method does sacrifice some of the nutrients in the rice.

3)  Buying organic may make more of a difference when it comes to produce, and it makes a big difference when it comes to chicken. It is standard practice for conventional chickens to get arsenic in their feed; it makes them grow faster and controls intestinal disease. Organic standards prohibit giving chickens arsenic.

4) Install a home water treatment that can remove arsenic and other toxins from your drinking water, like reverse osmosis systems

5) Regular use of an infrared sauna may help get arsenic out of your body. Nutrients that protect against arsenic and its negative effects include calcium, iodine, selenium, vitamin C, zinc and sulfur.

Arsenic in food: Our findings show a real need for federal standards for this toxin. Consumer Reports, November 2012. Accessed online September 22, 2012.

Read morehttp://digitaljournal.com/article/333150#ixzz28NlGuayr   -High levels of arsenic found in rice brands

— Guyanese Online Post #1930

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  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 10/05/2012 at 1:49 am

    Yet another concern about our food supply.

  • Ercumbaldo  On 10/05/2012 at 4:04 am

    Arsenic was found in USA rice not the one from Guyana

  • Rafeek Ali  On 10/08/2012 at 11:07 pm

    What the hell the Minister of Health is doing about this serious health issue. The government people should all be fed from the same source of polluted food food chain. Only when an accumulation of toxin has resulted in cancerous cells in their bodies will they react.
    Demonstrations at the public health ministry are in order.

    • guyaneseonline  On 10/09/2012 at 12:54 am

      This is a report on rice grown in the USA and other countries that have tested the incidence of arsenic residues in their products. Maybe some type of reaction to the Food and drug Administration (FDA) regarding the safety of USA food isnecessary.
      We have not seen any reports regarding the safety of rice grown in Guyana. This has to be checked out.

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