(NaturalNews) As Natural News readers and fans already know, we're hot on the trail pinpointing sources of heavy metals and understanding how they impair our physical and mental health. Now a groundbreaking study conducted in the United States on arsenic in drinking water has found something truly astounding: a mere 5 parts per billion (.005 ppm) of arsenic caused "reductions in Full Scale, Working Memory, Perceptual Reasoning and Verbal Comprehension scores" in children.(1)
The research was led by Joseph Graziano, PhD, professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. It involved 272 children from three school districts in Maine.
Graziano summarized the findings by explaining "aspects of performance intelligence, particularly perceptual reasoning and working memory, are impacted by exposure to arsenic in drinking water."
He goes on to say, "we also observed a steep drop in intelligence scores in the very low range of water arsenic concentrations."
This study, by the way, also complete demolishes the myth that small quantities of heavy metals can't possibly be harmful "because they are so small." In this study, we're talking about a concentration of just 5 parts per billion in drinking water -- an amount so tiny that it's only 1/100th the level of lead we've found in some protein products. If just 5 parts per billion can impair learning, reasoning and brain function, then obviously 500 parts per billion (.5 ppm) is even worse.
We already know that the heavy metals lead and mercury cause significant, measurable damage to brain function. Mercury in fish, for example, causes lowered IQs, learning disabilities and impaired cognitive function (2).
The levels we're documenting are in many cases hundreds of times larger than the 5 ppb of arsenic covered in this study. I had no idea arsenic could affect brain function at just 5 ppb (.005 ppm) in drinking water.
The EPA currently limits arsenic levels in public drinking water to 10 ppb. This limit is based on "total arsenic" including both organic arsenic and inorganic arsenic. Where does all this arsenic come from? According to the EPA (3):
Approximately 90 percent of industrial arsenic in the U.S. is currently used as a wood preservative, but arsenic is also used in paints, dyes, metals, drugs, soaps and semi-conductors. High arsenic levels can also come from certain fertilizers and animal feeding operations. Industry practices such as copper smelting, mining and coal burning also contribute to arsenic in our environment.
FDA has no limit on arsenic in foods
Even though the EPA has a limit of 10 ppb of arsenic in drinking water, the FDA has no limit on arsenic in foods, superfoods or supplements. To many Americans, this is bewildering: Why would the FDA have no limit on toxic heavy metals in the U.S. food supply?
I have personally tested many seaweeds that contain over 50 ppm of arsenic -- that's over 10,000 times the EPA's arsenic limit in drinking water. For example, as you can see on this lab results page, one brand of Kombu Flakes has over 100 ppm total arsenic! (Wakame from New Zealand contained almost zero arsenic, by the way...)
Of course, nobody is eating seaweed at the same quantities they are drinking water, and much of the arsenic in seaweed is probably organic arsenic (which isn't harmful like inorganic arsenic). Even then, the fact that popular seaweeds may contain 10,000 times the level of total arsenic necessary to significantly decrease cognitive function in children is quite alarming. Clearly this area needs more research to answer questions like:
• What is the impact of arsenic in adult brain function? Does too much arsenic lower your IQ?
• How much total arsenic were these children actually drinking over a month or a year?
• What is the source of the arsenic in the well water? Is this arsenic coming from ancient rock, or is this an industrial contaminant that's leaking into water aquifers?
• What is the combined effect of being exposed to low levels of arsenic, mercury and lead all at the same time?
• If only 5 ppb of arsenic caused these significant cognitive problems, then is there ANY safe level of arsenic to consume?
• Why won't the USDA limit the level of arsenic found in certified organic foods?
Health Ranger to test arsenic removal capabilities of popular water filters
On a positive note, I am currently in the process of testing the arsenic removal capabilities of popular gravity water filters such as the Big Berkey and ProPur. This work is being conducted in the Natural News Forensic Food Lab, and it will also test the ability of popular water filters to remove lead, cadmium, mercury and aluminum.
Although I reserve final conclusions until I see the actual data, I am approaching this project with a sense of optimism with the belief that the water filtration media typically used in today's gravity filters will likely be very effective at removing arsenic. Mercury is also exceedingly easy to remove through common filter media (such as carbon block filters), so I'm optimistic mercury removal will be very close to 100%.
Stay tuned to Natural News for these results. I'll be announcing the full results of this study to my email list, so subscribe below to receive these results immediately after they are published.
The bottom line in all this? Heavy metals are toxic to brain function, and even extremely low levels of arsenic -- trace levels -- are now documented to cause cognitive impairment in U.S. children.
This should make us all even more concerned about the toxic heavy metals appearing in foods, superfoods, supplements and other products grown in China, India and other nations where environmental regulations are all but ignored.
Note to scientists and researchers
I run a private ICP-MS laboratory in Texas and we are willing to offer published environmental researchers free ICP-MS laboratory testing of samples using EPA methodologies such as 200.8. We are willing to test water, food and other environmental samples but not biologicals such as blood or urine. Our lab is in the process of ISO 17025 accreditation and our results have been validated by university labs and other private labs.
We can validate your in-house results, and we can also serve as your primary lab for environmental studies involving heavy metals. Contact Natural News if you would like to collaborate on future research. (My own research normally focuses on heavy metals contamination of foods, superfoods, dietary supplements and herbal medicine.)
In addition to his lab work, Adams is also the (non-paid) executive director of the non-profit Consumer Wellness Center (CWC), an organization that redirects 100% of its donations receipts to grant programs that teach children and women how to grow their own food or vastly improve their nutrition. Click here to see some of the CWC success stories.
With a background in science and software technology, Adams is the original founder of the email newsletter technology company known as Arial Software. Using his technical experience combined with his love for natural health, Adams developed and deployed the content management system currently driving NaturalNews.com. He also engineered the high-level statistical algorithms that power SCIENCE.naturalnews.com, a massive research resource now featuring over 10 million scientific studies.