(NaturalNews) New scientific evidence has emerged, linking rice to harmful levels of arsenic. A recent study coming from Darmouth University and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences sheds new light on arsenic sources in the diets of healthy pregnant women.
Arsenic effects on health
Arsenic is a naturally occurring mineral that is highly toxic to all multicellular organisms. It works by interfering with enzyme production within cells, and disrupting their natural energy system. Consequently, arsenic poisoning can induce a vast array of medical conditions, including headaches, confusion, hypertension, cancer, stroke, as well as skin, liver and kidney toxicity that may cause the organs to shut down. Arsenic can commonly be found in groundwater, with numerous cases of arsenic contamination having been reported across the world over the last few years. According to data provided by the Darmouth Medical School, in the United States alone, as much as 20% of all wells in some areas may be contaminated with yet unknown levels of arsenic.
While the World Health Organization (WHO) has set a limit of 10 micrograms per liter of drinkable water, there is scientific evidence that even at low concentrations, arsenic can have devastating effects on human health. A Johns Hopkins University study showed that low levels of inorganic arsenic may play a role in type II diabetes incidence, while a Michigan study managed to link low levels of arsenic to 23 kinds of diseases.
Rice is currently under scientific scrutiny because of its ability to draw arsenic from contaminated soil. Dr. Margaret Karagas, head of the Darmouth science team, warns us about the far reaching implications of arsenic contamination. "Arsenic exposure during pregnancy is a public health concern due to potential health risks to the fetus," she explains.
Dr. Karagas is also head of the Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Center at Dartmouth and has studied the impact of arsenic on human health for over 15 years. During her vast experience in the field, she has been able to link arsenic to bladder cancer and other potentially fatal conditions. Data from other studies reveals that arsenic plays a role in infant mortality, reduced birth weight, poor immunity, and the likelihood of developing cancer at later stages in life.
Dr. Diane Gilbert-Diamond, who worked on this paper, reveals that the study used a sample of 229 pregnant women from New Hampshire, whose urine was tested for arsenic concentration. Women who had consumed rice up to two days before the examination were grouped together. The tap water in the women's homes was also tested for arsenic. "This enabled our team to separate the potential for exposure to arsenic from drinking water from that of rice," explained Gilbert-Diamond. The women who had consumed rice showed an average of 5.27 micrograms of arsenic per liter of urine, whereas women who hadn't consumed rice showed only 3.38 micrograms per liter. While China has imposed a statutory limit of arsenic concentration in rice (0.15 micrograms per kilogram), the United States and the European Union have yet to address this matter.
The researchers found further alarming evidence that New Hampshire water supplies are not safe: over 10% of the women who participated in the study consumed water containing arsenic well above the WHO limit of 10 micrograms per liter. "We strongly recommend that all homeowners who use a private well have their water tested regularly for arsenic," concludes professor Kathryn Cottingham, who co-authored the study.
About the author: Raw Michelle is a natural health blogger and researcher, sharing her passions with others, using the Internet as her medium. She discusses topics in a straight forward way in hopes to help people from all walks of life achieve optimal health and well-being. She has authored and published hundreds of articles on topics such as the raw food diet and green living in general.