Arsenic and Old Rice
Arsenic levels in U.S. rice could pose health risk
U.S.-grown rice contains an average of 1.4 to 5 times the amount of arsenic found in rice from Europe, India, or Bangladesh. According to a study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, people consuming American rice at a “subsistence level” — about one pound of dry rice a day — may get a dose of arsenic over the maximum recommended by the World Health Organization. It’s unclear whether or not this level of exposure is dangerous: Arsenic taken up into plants can bind to carbon-based molecules, creating organic arsenic that’s less toxic than the inorganic variety that typically contaminates drinking water. However, a Taiwanese study has linked arsenic-tainted rice to increased bladder cancer. Much of the land now used in the U.S. for rice cultivation once grew cotton, and researchers think that arsenic-based pesticides used in cotton farming have persisted in the soil.
Get Grist in your inbox