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U.S. Rice Has Five Times More Arsenic

According to a new study of grains, American-grown rice contains up to five times as much arsenic than that of crops in Bangladesh, Europe and India. Although arsenic is a naturally occurring chemical in soil, it also comes from pesticides, hence the concern.

Researchers determined U.S. rice contains 0.26 micrograms of arsenic in U.S. rice, more than 40 percent of which comes in an inorganic form that is potentially harmful. This amount may be small, but arsenic levels are monitored just the same because its long-term intake is associated with increased cancer risks. That could mean people eating a subsistence diet of 500 grams of dry American rice a day are probably consuming more than the maximum intake of arsenic provisionally recommended by the World Health Organization too.

Why may arsenic be prevalent in U.S. rice? One researcher says the contamination is a legacy of cotton farming, which relies on arsenic-based chemicals to kill boll weevils and to remove plants' leaves before harvest. In fact, a lot of land in Mississippi and Arkansas that previously grew cotton is now used for rice cultivation.

And, besides, who knows if the domestically grown rice in question is the result of a genetically modified process that could very well be a human health disaster in the making.

USA Today August 2, 2005

Nature August 2, 2005

Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 39, No. 14, June 9, 2005: 5241-5246

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