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Cancer Risk from Arsenic in Rice and Seaweed

15 min read

A every day half-cup of cooked rice might carry 100 occasions the suitable cancer danger of arsenic. What about seaweed from the coast of Maine?

“At one point during the reign of King Cotton, farmers in the south central United States controlled boll weevils with arsenic-based pesticides, and residual arsenic still contaminates the soil.” Different crops have totally different reactions to arsenic exposure. Tomatoes, for instance, don’t seem to accumulate much arsenic, but rice crops are actually good at sucking it out of the ground—a lot in order that rice can be used for “arsenic phytoremediation,” which means you’ll be able to plant rice on contaminated land as a option to clear arsenic from the soil. Of course, you’re then purported to throw the rice—and the arsenic—away. But in the South, the place 80 % of U.S. rice is grown, we as an alternative feed it to individuals.

As you possibly can see at 0:52 in my video Cancer Risk from Arsenic in Rice and Seaweed, national surveys have shown that the majority arsenic exposure has been measured coming from the meat in our weight loss plan, quite than from grains, with most from fish and different seafood. Well, provided that seafood is contributing 90 % of our arsenic publicity from food, why are we even speaking concerning the 4 % from rice?

The arsenic compounds in seafood are mainly organic—used right here as a chemistry time period having nothing to do with pesticides. Because of the best way our physique can cope with natural arsenic compounds, “they have historically been viewed as harmless.” Recently, there have been some questions about that assumption, however there’s no question concerning the toxicity of inorganic arsenic, which you get extra of from rice.

As you’ll be able to see at 1:43 in my video, rice incorporates extra of the poisonous inorganic arsenic than does seafood, with one exception: Hijiki, an edible seaweed, is a hundred occasions extra contaminated than rice, main some researchers to confer with it as the “so-called edible hijiki seaweed.” Governments have started to agree. In 2001, the Canadian government suggested the public not to eat hijiki, adopted by the United Kingdom, the European Commission, Australia, and New Zealand. The Hong Kong Centre for Food Safety advised the public not to eat hijiki and banned imports and gross sales of it. Japan, the place there’s truly a hijiki business, simply suggested moderation.

What about seaweed from the coast of Maine—domestic, commercially harvested seaweed from New England? Thankfully, just one sort, a kind of kelp, had vital ranges of arsenic. But, it will take greater than a teaspoon to exceed the provisional every day limit for arsenic, and, at that point, you’d be exceeding the higher every day restrict for iodine by about 3,000 %, which is ten occasions more than reported in a life-threatening case report attributed to a kelp complement.

I like to recommend avoiding hijiki on account of its extra arsenic content material and avoiding kelp on account of its excess iodine content material, but all different seaweeds must be fantastic, as long as you don’t eat them with too much rice.

In the report talked about earlier the place we discovered that rice has more of the toxic inorganic arsenic than fish, we will see that there are 88.7 micrograms of inorganic arsenic per kilogram of raw white rice. What does that imply? That’s only 88.7 elements per billion, which is like 88.7 drops of arsenic in an Olympic-size swimming pool of rice. How a lot most cancers danger are we talking about? To put it into context, the “usual level of acceptable risk for carcinogens” is one additional cancer case per million. That’s how we sometimes regulate cancer-causing substances. If a chemical company needs to release a new chemical, we would like them to point out that it doesn’t cause multiple in one million excess cancer instances.

The drawback with arsenic in rice is that the surplus cancer danger related to eating just about a half cup of cooked rice a day could possibly be nearer to at least one in ten thousand, not one in one million, as you’ll be able to see at 4:07 in my video. That’s 100 occasions the suitable cancer danger. The FDA has calculated that one serving a day of the most typical rice, long grain white, would cause not 1 in one million additional most cancers instances, however 136 in one million.

And that’s just the most cancers results of arsenic. What about all of the non-cancer results? The FDA acknowledges that, in addition to most cancers, the toxic arsenic discovered in rice “has been associated with many non-cancer effects, including ischemic heart disease, diabetes, skin lesions, renal [kidney] disease, hypertension, and stroke.” Why, then, did the FDA only calculate the most cancers risks of arsenic? “Assessing all the risks associated with inorganic arsenic would take considerable time and resources and would delay taking any needed action to protect public health” from the risks of rice.

“Although physicians can help patients reduce their dietary arsenic exposure, regulatory agencies, food producers, and legislative bodies have the most important roles” in terms of public health-scale modifications. “Arsenic content in U.S.-grown rice has been relatively constant throughout the last 30 years,” which is a nasty factor.

“Where grain arsenic concentration is elevated due to ongoing contamination, the ideal scenario is to stop the contamination at the source.” Some toxic arsenic in meals is from pure contamination of the land, however soil contamination has also come from the dumping of arsenic-containing pesticides, as well as using arsenic-based medicine in poultry production and then the spreading of arsenic-laced hen manure on the land. Regardless of why south central U.S. rice paddies are so contaminated, we shouldn’t be growing rice in arsenic-contaminated soil.

What does the rice business need to say for itself? Well, it started an internet site referred to as ArsenicDetails. Its principal argument seems to be that arsenic is in all places, we’re all uncovered to it daily, and it’s in most meals. But shouldn’t we attempt to reduce down on probably the most concentrated sources? Isn’t that like saying look, diesel exhaust is in all places, so why not suck on a tailpipe? The business web site quotes a nutrition professor saying, “All foods contain arsenic. So, if you eliminate arsenic from your diet, you will decrease your risk…and you’ll die of starvation.” That’s like Philip Morris saying that the one option to utterly keep away from secondhand smoke is to by no means breathe—but you then’ll asphyxiate, so that you may as properly simply start smoking yourself. If you possibly can’t keep away from it, you may as nicely eat probably the most toxic supply you will discover?!

That’s the identical tack the poultry business took. Arsenic and hen? “No need to worry” as a result of there’s a bit of arsenic all over the place. That’s why it’s okay the business fed chickens arsenic-based medicine for 70 years. If you possibly can’t beat ’em, be a part of ’em.

How can the rice business get away with promoting a product containing 100 occasions the suitable cancer danger? I cover that and so much extra in my different videos on arsenic and rice, which also embrace concrete recommendations on the best way to mediate your danger.

Check out:

Pesticides were not the one supply of arsenic. Poultry poop, too, in the event you can consider it! I cover that story in Where Does the Arsenic in Chicken Come From? and Where Does the Arsenic in Rice, Mushrooms, and Wine Come From?.

Chronic low-dose arsenic exposure is associated with more than simply most cancers. See The Effects of Too Much Arsenic in the Diet.

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t but, you possibly can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my stay shows:

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