S tudies have found alarming levels of arsenic in rice. Find out which types of rice have the most arsenic and steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from harm. For many people, rice is a simple, comforting food. In Asia, rice is an ancient symbol of wealth, success, fertility, and good health. And for more than half the world’s population, rice is a staple food and makes up a large portion of people’s diets. Brown rice is often considered a healthy choice. It’s a whole grain. Plus, it’s a good source of fiber and important nutrients, such as magnesium, selenium, and manganese. And rice is also sometimes recommended to eat when you’re sick. (I used to love soup with rice when I wasn’t feeling well.) But there’s a dark side to rice you may not know. Most of the rice today, whether white, brown, wild, organic, or conventional, is tainted with arsenic — one of the world’s most toxic poisons. How did this basic, wholesome food become polluted? How should you change your cooking and eating habits? Should you give up rice for good?
First, What is Arsenic? Arsenic is naturally present in the environment. This mineral occurs in the Earth’s crust and is found in soil, water, plants, and animals. So maybe you’re wondering: How can it be bad if it’s natural? For one thing, humans have complicated this issue by adding more arsenic to the soil through pesticides and fertilizers. And arsenic exists in two forms: organic and inorganic. In this usage, organic does not refer to a type of farming. It’s a chemistry term. Arsenic combined with carbon is organic and mainly found in plant and animal tissues. On the other hand, arsenic with no carbon (and combined with other elements) is inorganic and mainly found in rocks, soil, or water. Here’s the main thing you need to know: While the toxicity of arsenic varies widely — and both are considered public health concerns — inorganic arsenic is generally considered more toxic than organic arsenic. Inorganic arsenic has been recognized as a human poison since ancient times. It’s the type most often used in pesticides and fertilizers. It’s also found in a variety of foods. Chickens are often fed arsenic-containing drugs to make them grow faster. But one of the most common food sources of inorganic arsenic is… you guessed it: rice. More on why so much arsenic is in rice and what this means for you a little later. So, How Harmful Is Arsenic? You can’t tell if arsenic is in your food or drinks because both organic and inorganic arsenic have no smell or taste. Most of the organic and inorganic arsenic you ingest will leave your body in a few days. (According to a statement made by the CDC and information published by the World Health Organization.) But some of the inorganic arsenic — the kind of more concern — will remain in your body for months or even longer. And frequent exposure to inorganic arsenic, even in low doses, can cause health concerns. Small doses can cause: Stomach aches Headaches Drowsiness Abdominal pain and diarrhea And confusion And larger doses create more serious problems. Inorganic arsenic can even be deadly. In ancient Greece, arsenic was often used as a poison for criminals. A dose the size of a pea was found to be fatal. Long-term exposure to arsenic has been linked to numerous health issues, including: Skin pigmentation and lesions Dementia Type 2 diabetes High blood pressure and heart disease Neurological problems And other ailments Arsenic Is Also A Known Human Carcinogen Arsenic is linked to many types of cancer, including skin, lung, bladder, liver, and kidney cancers. Evidence suggests lung cancer is the most common cause of arsenic-related mortality. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classified arsenic as a category 1 carcinogen, meaning it’s known to cause cancer in humans. The U.S. EPA has also determined that inorganic arsenic is carcinogenic to humans. Inorganic arsenic is generally considered more harmful, but the IARC considers two types of organic arsenic to be “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Arsenic Is A Concern for Pregnant Women and Children For pregnant women, babies, and children, the situation may be even worse. Pregnant women who are exposed to arsenic may put their unborn babies at risk of having compromised immune systems while in the womb and in early life. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that high levels of inorganic arsenic during pregnancy are linked to numerous adverse outcomes. For example, exposure to arsenic during pregnancy and infancy can impair a child’s performance on developmental tests. Arsenic In Rice: Should You Be Concerned? Rice is an easy, enjoyable food that can bulk up a meal for pennies. But should you stop eating it to avoid the health risks from arsenic? Consumer Reports tested 223 samples of rice products and found significant levels of arsenic in almost all of them, including white, brown, parboiled, jasmine, basmati, and other types of rice. You can see the full results of the brands they tested and the results here. Arsenic was found in rice whether it was organic or conventional — and from all regions of the world.
Studies have found alarming levels of arsenic in rice. Find out which types of rice have the most arsenic and steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from harm. For many people, rice is a simple, comforting food. In Asia, rice is an ancient symbol of wealth, success, fertility, and good health. And for more than half the world’s population, rice is a staple food and makes up a large portion of people’s diets. Brown rice is often considered a healthy choice. It’s a whole grain. Plus, it’s a good source of fiber and important nutrients, such as magnesium, selenium, and manganese.