Half a cup of cooked rice daily can be 100 times the acceptable cancer risk of arsenic. What about seaweed from the Maine coast?
“At one point during the King Cotton reign, farmers in the southern United States were controlling weevils with arsenic-based pesticides, and residual arsenic is still contaminating the soil.” Different plants react differently to arsenic. Tomatoes, for example, don’t seem to accumulate much arsenic, but rice plants are really good at sucking it up from the ground – so much so that rice can be used for “phytoremediation of arsenic,” which means you can plant rice on contaminated land as a trail to remove arsenic from the soil. Of course, you should then throw away the rice – and the arsenic. But in the south, where 80 percent of US rice is grown, we feed it to humans instead.
As you can see at 0:52 in my video Risk of cancer from arsenic in rice and seaweedNational surveys have shown that most of the arsenic exposure does not come from grains, but from meat and other seafood. Now, given that seafood makes up 90 percent of our food arsenic exposure, why are we talking about the 4 percent from rice?
The arsenic compounds in seafood are mainly biological – used here as a chemical term that has nothing to do with pesticides. Because of the way our bodies handle organic arsenic compounds, “they have historically been considered harmless.” There have been some questions about this assumption recently, but there is no question about the toxicity of inorganic arsenic that you know more about obtained from rice.
As you can see in mine at 1:43 am VideoRice contains more toxic inorganic arsenic than seafood, with one exception: hijiki, an edible seaweed, is hundreds of times more contaminated than rice, leading some researchers to refer to it as “so-called edible hijiki seaweed.” The governments have started to come to an agreement. In 2001, the Canadian government advised the public not to eat hijiki, followed by the UK, the European Commission, Australia and New Zealand. The Hong Kong Food Safety Center advised the public not to eat hijiki and banned its import and sale. Japan, where there is indeed a hijiki industry, only advised moderation.
What about Maine Coastal Seaweed – Native, Commercially Harvested New England Seaweed? Fortunately, only one species, one type of seaweed, had significant arsenic levels. However, it would take more than a teaspoon to cross the tentative daily limit on arsenic, and at that point you would exceed the daily upper limit on iodine by about 3,000 percent, which is ten times more than stated in a lifetime – threatening case report that one Is attributed to the addition of seaweed.
I recommend avoiding hijiki for its excessive arsenic and seaweed for its excessive iodine content, but all other algae should be fine as long as you don’t eat them with too much rice.
In the previously mentioned report where we learned that rice contains more toxic inorganic arsenic than fish, we can see that there is 88.7 micrograms of inorganic arsenic per kilogram of raw white rice. What does that mean? That’s only 88.7 parts per billion, which is the equivalent of 88.7 drops of arsenic in an Olympic rice basin. How Much Cancer Risk Are We Talking About? In this context, the “usual acceptable risk for carcinogens” is one additional cancer case per million. This is how we normally regulate carcinogenic substances. When a chemical company wants to release a new chemical, we want them to show that it causes no more than one in a million excess cancer cases.
The problem with arsenic in rice is that the excessive cancer risk associated with consuming just half a cup of cooked rice a day could be closer to one in ten thousand, not one in a million as you are in my report 4:07 a.m. Video. That’s 100 times the acceptable risk of cancer. The FDA has calculated that one serving of the most commonly used rice, long grain white, causes 136 in a million additional cancer cases, not 1 in a million.
And that’s just the cancerous effects of arsenic. What about all the non-cancer effects? The FDA acknowledges that the toxic arsenic found in rice has been linked to many non-cancer effects in addition to cancer, including ischemic heart disease, diabetes, skin lesions, and kidney disease [kidney] Illness, high blood pressure and stroke. “Then why did the FDA only calculate the cancer risks of arsenic? Assessment of all the risks associated with inorganic arsenic would take time and resources, and would delay the taking of all necessary measures to protect public health.
“Although doctors can help patients reduce their dietary arsenic exposure, regulators, food manufacturers and legislators play the most important role” in making changes to public health. “The arsenic levels in rice grown in the US have been relatively constant over the past 30 years,” which is a bad thing.
“When the arsenic concentration in grain is elevated due to persistent contamination, the ideal scenario is to stop the contamination at the source.” Some of the toxic arsenic in food comes from natural contamination of the land, but the soil contamination is also due to the introduction of arsenic-containing pesticides, as well as the use of arsenic-based drugs in poultry production and the subsequent spread of arsenic-laced chickens into the country . Regardless of why rice fields in the southern United States are so contaminated, we shouldn’t be growing rice in soils contaminated with arsenic.
What does the rice industry have to say for itself? Well, a website called ArsenicFacts has been launched. The main argument seems to be that arsenic is everywhere, we are all exposed to it every day, and it is found in most foods. But shouldn’t we try to narrow down the most concentrated sources? Isn’t that like saying that diesel exhaust is everywhere. So why not suck on an exhaust pipe? A nutrition professor is quoted on the industry website: “All foods contain arsenic. So if you eliminate arsenic from your diet, you reduce your risk … and you will die of starvation. “It’s like Philip Morris saying that the only way to completely avoid second-hand smoke is to never breathe – but then you’ll choke, so you might as well start smoking yourself. If you can’t avoid it, you might as well be consuming the most toxic source you can find ?!
This is the same path that the poultry industry has taken. Arsenic and chicken? “Don’t worry,” there’s a little arsenic everywhere. So it is okay that the industry fed arsenic-based chickens for 70 years. If you can’t beat them, join them.
How can the rice industry get away with selling a product that has 100 times the acceptable risk of cancer? I describe this and much more in my other videos on arsenic and rice, which also contain specific recommendations for communicating your risk.
Pesticides weren’t the only source of arsenic. Chicken droppings too, if you can believe it! I describe this 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 linked to more than just cancer. See The Effects of Too Much Arsenic in Your Diet.
Michael Greger, MD
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