Arsenic Poisoning - Foods

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Do you drink apple juice or eat rice on a consistent basis? Are you concerned about the amount of arsenic in these products?

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What foods (rice), products (apple juice) , or liquids (water) is arsenic found in, where it is used, and what are safe limits?

People may be exposed through work in a metal foundry, mining, glass production, the semiconductor industry, in criminal attempts at murder by poisoning, suicide attempts, and as a biological warfare agent.

  • Arsenic has been found to contaminate such common items as wine, glues, and pigments.
  • Arsenic is commonly found in many foods both in its relatively nontoxic organic form, and also in the more toxic inorganic form. Consequently, such foods need to be tested for both inorganic and organic arsenic levels.
  • Such arsenic has been reported in milk and dairy products, beef, pork, poultry, and cereal.
  • Arsenic is also often found in rice, representing a potentially serious source of exposure in certain at-risk populations (especially children).
  • Many water sources in the world have high levels of arsenic in them, both due to normal arsenic leaching out of the ground and from humancaused mining and industrial waste.

Recent examples of concerns about arsenic have surfaced on its presence in apple juice. In most studies, various sources of apple juice tested by government and consumer labs have found that most (over 95% tested) contain a very small amount of arsenic (less than 10 parts per billion) and are safe to drink (in contrast to a TV show that raised alarms about consuming apple juice). However, the FDA qualified their findings by indicating in July 2013, new standards would apply and any juice that contained 10 or more parts per billion (the same level set for safe groundwater) would not be permitted to be sold in the US. This is lower than the previous approved level of less than 23 parts per billion approved in 2008. Nonetheless, other groups suggest that only juice containing less than 3 parts per billion be FDA approved while others advise that only 6 ounces of apple juice per day (about one juice box) be consumed by children because of its high sugar content.

Two other sources of arsenic, especially of some concern for children, is arsenic in groundwater and subsequently, in rice that is grown in such groundwater. Rice is a common food for children but to date, there are no regulations about the levels of arsenic that are considered safe for consumption. The FDA and the EPA are currently collecting data to make a recommendation about safe levels but many groups as pushing the FDA to act soon. The groups claim some private laboratories have detected that a single adult serving of some commercially available rice can give about 1.5 times the amount of permissible arsenic in one liter of water (under 10 parts per billion), so action on permissible arsenic levels should be done quickly. In 2013, the CDC recommends only about 2 cups of cooked rice per individual (adult) per week.

Groundwater around the relatively new method of producing oil and gas has been tested in some sites and found to have increased levels of arsenic. Although further studies are planned and needed, this colud be yet a new way to contaminate water supplies. Again, several groups are urging timely FDA studies to investigate this potential problem.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Rice eater, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: December 02

Yes, I'm very concerned about arsenic in rice and the many rice products gluten intolerant people and people with celiac disease eat. We can't eat wheat, rye, or barley, so our baked goods are made with either rice or bean flour. Some of us get digestive issues with bean flour, so we eat the rice flours. I hope the baking industry is looking for a way to make flour without beans or rice. In the meantime, I'm going to talk to my doctor about being tested for arsenic levels.

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Comment from: Lore, 45-54 Female (Caregiver) Published: January 09

My 12 year old daughter has celiac disease. Our diet has been rice based for the past 11 years. Over the past year, she and I have been experiencing the symptoms of arsenic exposure. After reading 'Consumer Reports' articles, I connected our somewhat vague symptoms with arsenic exposure, no doubt, from gluten free rice products, rice, and apple and grape juice. We were tested for arsenic toxicity and are awaiting the results.

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