Arsenic Found In These Common Breakfast Cereals
It has emerged that consumers are often exposed to arsenic in the amounts that exceed the recommended safety limits.
There are two types of arsenic present in food and water: organic and inorganic. Organic arsenic occurs naturally and is rapidly eliminated by the body. It is often found in seafood. Inorganic arsenic is the problematic one and is used in pesticides and other industrial chemicals.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 9,100 deaths were attributed to drinking arsenic-contaminated water in Bangladesh in 2001. In 2010, the WHO published a paper that outlined the dangers of arsenic exposure. They called arsenic exposure a major public health concern.
Testing rice products
When different rice products were tested, many of them showed high levels of inorganic arsenic. Some of these products were aimed at babies, such as soy-based formula with added organic brown rice syrup. Kellogg’s Rice Krispies, which are often consumed by children, also tested high above the recommended levels. Kellogg’s spokesperson dismissed the report stating that the tests done by their company showed that the arsenic levels were within the limits of the most up to date proposals.
The problem with maximum arsenic levels allowed in food
At the moment, there is no consensus on the maximum levels of arsenic that should be allowed in food, and this is already part of the problem. There are, however, strict limits for the amount of arsenic allowed in the water. Rice and rice products are usually contaminated with inorganic arsenic because they are prepared and cooked with high-arsenic water, or food crops are irrigated with contaminated water.
There are different lobbies trying to influence the decision on safe arsenic levels in food. Professor Andrew Meharg, Professor of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, says that the European Union’s future standards for arsenic levels in baby rice are set too high. They should be half of the proposed 100 parts per billion according to Professor Meharg. It seems that once again the interest of rice traders is put ahead of public health interest.
Arsenic effects on the body
Soluble inorganic arsenic has both acute and chronic effects on the human body. Acute exposure can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Effects of long-term exposure can take years to develop. They include skin lesions, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. Arsenic can cause cancers of the skin, bladder and lungs, and there is limited evidence that it may also cause cancers of the kidney, liver and prostate. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified arsenic and arsenic compounds as carcinogenic to humans.
The combination of arsenic and estrogen
Experts warn that the combination of arsenic and estrogen is particularly toxic. Soy-based baby formulas, which were mentioned earlier in the article, also contain phytoestrogens, which makes them extremely disease promoting (read my previous article about soy). Researchers from Texas Tech University showed that individuals exposed to both arsenic and estrogens were twice as likely to develop prostate cancer.
People around the world consume more and more rice. If there are no transparent and safe standards set soon, arsenic exposure might become a serious global problem.