Is Arsenic Toxic and how does it end up in our Food Supply?

Arsenic Toxic Food Supply

By: Hedie Habibnia, R.H.N, Master’s in Nutrition Science

Arsenic is extremely toxic to our body. 100 mg of arsenic will kill a human instantly. However, a minimal amount of Arsenic does not kill instantly but it will kill over time through chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, immunodeficiency, and cancer. According to FDA, Arsenic in children can lower their IQ. Arsenic can transfer from pregnant women to unborn infants through the womb.  This is why they use arsenic in chemotherapy to kill all the cancer cells.

The big question is how it ends up in our foods. Researchers found that people eating poultries have a significant amount of arsenic in their body, since the antibiotics they are given to prevent or treat disease contains Arsenics. On the other hand, chicken feces are used as manure to grow plants, so now the plants and vegetables also contain arsenic.

The U.S. government were using pesticide containing high amounts of arsenic on their cotton fields in Texas since 1997. Over the years of using pesticides, the soil becomes rich in arsenic and it enters our water supply and in to our drinking water. Even though arsenic is banned to use as a pesticide now, rice and mushrooms still contain a high amount of arsenic.

Two basic ways to minimize the amount of arsenic in your food; first, try to buy chicken from local Ontario based organic farms where they do not use any antibiotics or pesticides. Secondly, buy organic mushrooms using horse manure instead of chicken manure if available.

Unfortunately, there is no such a thing as organic rice since all soils and water in the U.S and Sri Lanka are contaminated with significant amounts of arsenic, although Researchers have found short grain rice grown in California has less arsenic than long grain rice from Texas. Brown, red, and black rice all have same amount of arsenic. Boiling the rice with plenty of water and draining the water can reduce significant amount of arsenic up to 70%. Brown rice has same amount of arsenic as white rice, however cooking brown rice in water reduces arsenic to 70%, while still keeping some nutrients inside.

References: Michael Greger M.D. FACLM, July 31st, 2017 Volume 37

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