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Scientists warn of arsenic in rice

It’s long been known that rice takes up more arsenic from soil than other crops, and now a new study is raising concerns about the arsenic levels ingested by women who eat as little as half a cup of cooked rice in a day.

Currently, there are no limits on the amount of allowable arsenic in rice in the United States. But the Environmental Protection Agency has set arsenic limits in water of 10 parts per billion. In a paper in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers report that women who ate the national average of half a cup of cooked rice a day in the two days prior to urine collection, ingested an amount of arsenic equivalent to drinking four and a quarter cups of water a day containing arsenic at the maximum allowable level set by the EPA.

The findings are worrisome enough that researchers are calling on the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the amount of allowable arsenic in rice.

The researchers did not measure the actual arsenic levels of the rice consumed and are not making any dietary recommendations. But they say the results highlight the need for monitoring and regulation of arsenic levels in rice.

Arsenic occurs naturally in soil worldwide. Most crops don’t take it up. But rice is grown in flooded fields which “dramatically changes the [soil] chemistry,” releasing arsenic locked up in soil minerals so it can be taken up by the rice, says Andy Meharg, a professor of biogeochemisty at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

Gannett News Service

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