Arsenic is an element found in nature, and in man-made products, including pesticides. It comes in two forms; an organic form that is not generally considered harmful, and an inorganic form that is toxic to humans and can cause cancer.
Low levels of arsenic occur naturally in soil and water. Plants take up arsenic as they grow which is how it makes its way into your food. Food is the major source of arsenic exposure for most people, in particular from rice and rice products. The FDA does not currently regulate the amount of arsenic that can be in our food. Use information provided on this website to reduce your exposure.
In some places, drinking water may contain arsenic from natural or man-made sources. Public water systems must keep arsenic below a limit set by the EPA, but if you are on a private well, you should make sure to test your well water for arsenic.
Exposure to low doses of arsenic may change the way cells communicate and reduce their ability to function. Infants, children and pregnant women are more susceptible to the harmful effects of arsenic. Research has found that children born and raised in areas where arsenic exposure was high were more likely to have problems with growth, immune function and neurological development.
Arsenic exposure may play a role in the development of diabetes, cancer, vascular disease and lung disease. Long term exposure to high levels of arsenic is associated with increased rates of skin cancer, bladder cancer and heart disease.
There is no safe level of arsenic exposure. You can reduce the risk of adverse health effects by reducing your exposure.
Estimated Exposure to Arsenic in Breastfed and Formula-Fed Infants in a United States Cohort
By: Courtney C. Carignan, Kathryn L. Cottingham, Brian P. Jackson Shohreh F. Farzan, A. Jay Gandolfi, Tracy Punshon, Carol L. Folt, and Margaret R. Karagas
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
February 23, 2015
Previous studies indicate that breast milk arsenic concentrations are relatively low even in areas with high
drinking water arsenic. However, it is uncertain whether breastfeeding leads to reduced infant exposure to arsenic in regions with lower arsenic concentrations.
In Search of "Just Right": The Challenge of Regulating Arsenic in Rice
By: Charles W. Schmidt
Environmental Health Perspectives
A regulation that's too high may not adequately protect health, and a regulation that's too low could be infeasible for producers to achieve.
Getting to the Bottom of Arsenic Standards and Guidelines
By: Andrew A. Meharg and Andrea Raab
University of Aberdeen
May 14, 2010
Arsenic (As) is a notorious metalloid that poses a significant health hazard in many regions. As a carcinogenic toxicant, its "safe levels" can often be legislated lower than the natural background. Since such levels are intimately tied to the ability to detect harmful forms of As in water or food-where the form(s) in question need ascertaining-choosing reasonably available analytical techniques complicate public health policies, especially in developing regions. In this Feature, Meharg and Raab review the international approaches to As and comment on how the protocols might better be crafted.