Arsenic in Rice: Should We Worry About Toxic Chemical in Popular Food?

A new study showing that traces of arsenic can be absorbed by humans from rice raises questions about whether the exposure presents a risk -- and, if so, how to minimize it.

"Arsenic is nasty stuff. Concentrated doses of the chemical can be fatal — one reason it's long been a popular poison for assassins and unhappy widows. And chronic high exposure has been linked to skin lesions, certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. But scientists are increasingly concerned about even low-dose exposures [PDF], especially for pregnant women, finding that prenatal arsenic exposure is linked to infant mortality and low-birth weight.

The most common route of exposure to arsenic is through drinking water, in part because groundwater can be contaminated with the naturally occurring chemical. But in a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers have found that eating rice can also lead to arsenic exposure, raising questions about how much of the chemical may be making its way into the food supply — posing special risks to pregnant women and their children."

Bryan Walsh reports for TIME December 5, 2011.

Source: TIME, 12/07/2011