Arsenic in Rice

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A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has found that women who consume rice have higher levels of arsenic detected in urine than those women who do not eat rice. Arsenic is a heavy metal that naturally occurs in the environment, but at higher levels can be detrimental to human health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has set limits for arsenic in groundwater at 10 mg/L. The rice plant has the ability to extract arsenic and store it in the rice grain. Currently, there are no regulations for arsenic levels in rice, so this presents a potential problem. This new study will hopefully lead to more studies that examine the potential health risks of arsenic exposure in rice. For now, no recommendations are made to avoid rice, as it is thought to be an important nutrient in the diets of many people.

Scientists do recommend having well water tested, as 10 percent of the women in the study were drinking well water that exceeded the current WHO limits for arsenic. The senior author of the paper stated, “Arsenic exposure during pregnancy is a public health concern due to potential health risks to the fetus.” Though they do not recommend pregnant women avoid rice at this time, I would say it’s probably not a good idea to eat rice every day. It’s too early to know much, but it might be prudent to cut back on rice if you are expecting.

This week, if you have well water, get it tested for arsenic to be sure you are well under the 10 mg/L limit.

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