(NaturalNews) Arsenic is an element all around us in the environment, found in soil, water, and air. Seeing that it's in these important parts of nature, it's easy to understand how it ends up in our food. However, it is known that high levels of arsenic in the human body can lead to nasty consequences, thus leading to questions about the risks of consuming products that contain the element.
Plenty of common foods have a level of arsenic in them. Beef, chicken, fish, shrimp, cooked spinach, and grape juice are among these. There is even arsenic in drinking water. The biggest concern, though, is the elevated level of arsenic in rice and rice products.
There are two types of arsenic: inorganic and organic. Inorganic is the more concerning of the two, as it's considered to be more toxic and is a known carcinogen. The Food and Drug Administration associates long-term exposure to high levels of arsenic with greater risk for cancers of the skin, bladder, and lungs. It is also linked to heart disease. Furthermore, long-term exposure to low levels can change and reduce cell function, as well as increase potential development of diabetes, vascular disease, and lung disease.
Consumer Reports has recommended that people avoid eating rice and rice products. However, there are some researchers that disagree with that warning. Brown rice and wheat germ - both found to have elevated levels of arsenic - contain important compounds such as vitamin B3, niacin and folates, which aid in the elimination of arsenic in the body. Instead of completely axing these products from your diet, some researchers simply advise consumers to eat a balanced diet and, when eating rice, rinse it before and after cooking.
There has been no federal limit set on arsenic levels in food. The FDA tests for it with a program that screens for harmful substances, but when inorganic arsenic is found, it is treated on a case-by-case basis. Recently, the FDA has announced its consideration for setting a standard for arsenic in fruit juice. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has a limit on quantities in drinking water; however, setting the cap at 10 parts per billion. Note that this is for public drinking water; private wells may have higher levels than this restriction.
It has been found that rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas has higher levels of arsenic than rice grown in India, Taiwan, and California. The FDA acknowledged public concern and is hoping to find out the potential health risks and ways to minimize them.
For now, it is not recommended that consumers cross rice off their grocery lists. Rather, researchers encourage a balanced diet and to keep your ears open for further findings.