There’s Arsenic in Your Rice!

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I’m not one to pass on rumors, so I did my homework.

Arsenic comes in two forms: organic and inorganic

The organic is naturally occurring. It is considered a heavy metal. The organic form is in our air, soil and water. It’s not enough to cause dangerous problems.

Then there’s the inorganic arsenic. This is caused from the residue of agricultural practices since the early 1900’s of spraying various crops, mostly cotton, with lead-arsenate insecticide and in animal feed and fertilizers made from poultry waste. Since the southern parts of the U.S. uses old cotton fields to grow rice, they, of course, have a higher content of inorganic arsenic in rice production. Rice is grown in flooded fields where it tends to absorb the arsenic through its root systems from the water and soil. Brown rice has 80% more inorganic arsenic than white rice in every study. Inorganic arsenic is toxic in high consumption, such as in rice, soy and other products. The inorganic arsenic has leached into the soil and groundwater. The use of arsenic has been banned since the 1980’s, but that doesn’t mean it’s all gone. This can take years to mitigate through responsible agricultural practices and responsible consumption.

Sadly, many fields that once grew cotton have been used for growing rice, especially areas of the southern U.S. such as Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. For more information about history and growth of rice see: History of rice in the United States

For guidelines on where to find rice low in arsenic see: Consumer Reports Releases New Guidelines for Arsenic in Rice and Grains

Studies show that acute and chronic effects to inorganic arsenic can cause cancer of the skin, bladder, lungs, and other organs of the body, to name a few effects on the human body. Since arsenic disappears rapidly from the blood and through urine, low levels may not be toxic. But continuous low (and high) levels can accumulate over a period of months and years, especially if you’re a big rice eater. BUT, the issue with the FDA is that it’s difficult for science to conduct epidemiological studies for conclusive evidence on the effects of inorganic arsenic and at what levels from foods. They seem to be slow at establishing standard minimum acceptable levels for inorganic arsenic in food consumption. I would tend to side with their minimum acceptable levels established for ground water from the EPA of 10 ppb. Fact Sheet: Drinking Water Standard for Arsenic

According to one source, (International Journal of Advanced Research (2015), Volume 3, Issue 5, 1398-1409: Importance Of System Of Rice Intensification Method For Mitigation Of Arsenic In Rice) the WHO has stated that the ” total daily intake should not exceed 2 mg of inorganic arsenic per kilogram of body weight.” That’s a toxic amount of arsenic and equates to 2000 ppb. The system for safe levels of inorganic arsenic in water established by the EPA is 10 μg/L or 10 parts per billion; a very significant difference. Originally the EPA had the safe recommended limits were 5 parts per billion. For more consumer information on studies of arsenic in rice products, see the pdf sheet: Consumer Reports Arsenic in Food November 2012. PDF with complete details of our test results.), taken from this page: Arsenic in your food (a very informative article)

How Agriculture is Modifying Rice?

Some agricultural farms are implementing ways to reduce the absorption of arsenic in growing rice through SRI, or System of Rice Intensification. The above linked article discusses SRI methodologies, although I question the numbers they quoted from the WHO. Anyway, SRI is a modification of growing rice to make it disease and pest resistant, enhance soil fertility, use less water, and overall heartier plant. Do not confuse this with GMO. This is a method used to assist nature with human intervention and less costly using immediate on-farm practices. See this article for more information how this method is being used in more than 50 countries world-wide: Five ways SRI practices and ideas can help “feed the world”

What Can You Do About It?

I suggest getting rice that is low in arsenic. Again see this for rice sources: Consumer Reports Releases New Guidelines for Arsenic in Rice and Grains

You can try this person’s method, although the idea of keeping the lid on is to cook the rice, not not to keep in the arsenic in so you can wash it away. Arsenic cannot be boiled out of water, lid or no lid. Here’s the link on how to lessen the amounts of arsenic in your rice: How to Kick Arsenic’s Arse

If you use brown rice, I suggest soaking it 12 hours to soften the outer hull. Remember brown rice can contain up to 80% more arsenic than white rice, but is also nutritionally better for you. But I get Lundberg brand. In traditional methods, soak for 12-24 hours and save 10% of the soak water for the next soak batch, repeating the soak process until you have about 96% or more of “soak” water saved over time to use. Its purpose is to take out the phytic acid and make the grain nutrients available and absorbable for the body. I dump the soak water, not saving any of it, and rinse it several times to clean it. You won’t see starch running off the brown rice as in white rice since the hull of brown rice protects the starch content. Anyway, I don’t see a point in saving arsenic laced water in exchange for the low levels of phytic acid (phytic acid keeps the nutrients locked up and is indigestible) in rice. Cook as usual if you’re not worried about high content arsenic, or use the above method I linked.

Ways to remove heavy metals from your body:

I use a simple, safe, inexpensive, natural way when I think I’m getting an infection: Cilantro blended with water for a drink. I looked up cilantro and found that it chelates neurotoxins (heavy metals, fungi, viruses, pathogens, pesticides, drugs, artificial food additives, dyes, preservatives) . Word of caution: If you don’t completely understand what you are taking or how it may affect you, then don’t use it! Some natural products used wrong can be very harmful. Use discernment and caution on any method you use. Here’s a link to other methods: Top Ten Natural Ways to Remove Heavy Metals

I would probably NOT use Selenium. If the word “toxic” in any amounts not specified is used, it’s no longer an option for me. Like rice with arsenic in large amounts.

Stay informed and don’t freak out!

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