Health Alert

How to keep your family safe after a recent study finds arsenic in most rice products

CREATED Feb 15, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - Arsenic is a naturally occuring element, and it's practically everywhere. In the ground. In our water. In our food. It is highly toxic to humans. Long-term exposure has been linked to bladder, lung and skin cancer. A recent study by Consumer Reports raises the question, 'How much is too much?'

Shalini Bhat of Waukesha is a first time mom. She says, "I can't even explain it, what I feel for her, it's an unexplainable amount of love"



That love comes with a lot of worry.

"Not knowing a lot of stuff, I have to read up on it online, and many times whatever you find online can be scary," Shalini admits.

What scares her these days is the transition to solid food for her 6 month old.

"I'm pretty particular about what I feed her," Shalini says.

She's read the recent news reports about arsenic in rice. Shalini hasn't changed her own diet, but she says for Leela it's a different story. "When it comes down to her, I will probably be a little more cautious when it comes to rice."

Dr. Michael Crupain is with Consumer Reports. He says, "When we did our risk assessments and we made our recommendations, it was about exposure over a long period of time."

Dr. Michael Crupain was part of the study conducted by Consumer Reports. His recommendation--Limit the amount of rice, especially for younger children, and only feed infants one serving of rice cereal a day.

"If you look at all the foods you can get arsenic from, rice usually comes up to the top of the list of the highest levels," Dr. Crupain warns.

Arsenic amounts are higher in rice than other foods becuase it grows in water, which contains arsenic. That all gets absorbed into the plant.

Rice producers claim rice is safe, but are waiting on a new study by the FDA. The government is planning to release a comprehensive study of arsenic levels done on more than a thousand products.

Back to the Consumer Reports study. While the levels varied, overall, the arsenic was highest in rice grown in the Southern United States. In most cases, it was higher in brown rice than white.

Dr. David Gummin is the Medical Director of the Poison Control Center of Wisconsin. He explains, "There is no data right now that avoiding rice is something that would be indicated."

Dr. David Gummin is the Medical Director of the Poison Control Center of Wisconsin. He claims, "Everything is toxic. Too much water, or even oxygen, can kill you." He adds about rice, "The amount that you are exposed to determines whether or not you will potentially get sick from it or get cancer from it."

He insists the nutrients in rice are more important than the risk of exposure to arsenic.

"I think if the child has a balanced diet, sometimes oats, sometimes wheat, sometimes fiber, sometimes rice... the child is going to be better off," Dr. Gummin suggests.

So for Shalini and Leela that means limiting rice--for now.

'It's always a good feeling when you are keeping your child safe," Shalini exclaims.

That FDA study is expected to be released soon. TODAY'S TMJ4 will be sure to let you know those results, and what they mean for you.