Health Front: The Arsenic Around Us
By Dr. JERRY DeCAPUA, TRT Contributing Writer
• Arsenic is present in the environment as a naturally occurring substance or as a result of contamination from human activity. There are two types of arsenic: organic and inorganic. The inorganic forms are toxic and harmful, while the organic forms of arsenic are essentially harmless. Some amounts of both forms are found in certain foods and beverages, especially fruit juices.
Research has now linked exposure to high levels of arsenic in drinking water with coronary heart disease.
A recent study of Native Americans concludes that people chronically exposed to low to moderate levels of arsenic in their environment may be more likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular diseases. The researchers at Johns Hopkins University studied 3,600 Native Americans living in Arizona, Oklahoma and the Dakotas for 20 years. The study participants provided urine samples to estimate their exposure to inorganic arsenic. Of the participants, nearly 450 died of cardiovascular disease and almost 1,200 developed serious cardiovascular diseases. Other variables like alcohol, smoking and diet were ruled out in the study.
Researchers found that a person’s risk of death from cardiovascular disease increased with their degree of arsenic exposure. The more arsenic exposure, the more cardiovascular risk, reported the medical journal Annuls of Internal Medicine. Most of the sources of the high arsenic levels in Arizona and Dakota appear to be coming from groundwater and wells. Oklahomans were likely exposed to arsenic through their foods, with potential sources being rice, wheat and corn.
For years, the FDA has been testing for arsenic in apple juice and other fruit juices because arsenic-based pesticides were commonly used in the United States agricultural production up until 1970. Trace levels of arsenic are still appearing in farm soil and its water runoff.
In reaction to these findings, the FDA has set controversial limits as to how much arsenic found in fruit juices and bottled water is considered safe or appropriate.
Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, believed the FDA’s “level of concern” for acceptable arsenic levels in water and fruit juices was inadequate, if not ridiculously low. A private Consumer Report research study showed very high arsenic levels in rice, apple and grape juice.
In response to the Consumer Report study, the FDA said it would conduct new testing and possibly draw up new guidelines to reduce the risks of arsenic exposure. Just recently, the FDA has proposed an “action level” of 10 parts per billion for inorganic arsenic in fruit juices, which is the same level set for drinking water in the U.S. The previous contamination level was as high as 23 parts per billion.
Many apple and grape juices on the market today will not pass the readjusted safety limits for arsenic. Most of the fruit juices coming from China have always been very high in arsenic. While safety limits on food and rice are not yet in place, the FDA has now posted “levels of concern” for rice products due to the arsenic levels detected. The consumption of white rice should now be limited.
Arsenic and heavy metals are accumulated in our liver, blood vessels and fat over a certain period of time. If you want to know if arsenic is in your home water supply or your store bought beverages, there are home testing kits available to check toxins. One particular product is called the TestSafe Arsenic Detector that was supposedly developed with support from the Department of Defense. This home test can give you results on your food and drink in 30 minutes. It cost $20 and is available on the testsafe.us web site. It can be used to test foods like rice, corn meal, baby foods, and white wine as well as juices.
If someone wants to detox themselves from arsenic, there are products like Sodium Thiosulfates, which are often used by medical professionals to help people recover from both arsenic and cyanide poisoning. ST can be bought online, or it can be bought at an aquatics shop as a 10% solution. It is mainly used to remove chlorine from fish tanks because chlorine is highly poisonous to fish.
The dosage is 8 to 10 drops in a glass of water (half this dose for children). It will cause diarrhea when used for the first time as it flushes heavy metals, cyanide and arsenic out of the body. Some alternative and natural remedies for detox are chelation pills and suppositories. Herbal treatments with Milk Thistle and Chanca Piedra, as well as the vitamin Glutathione, are often used.
There has been a lack of interest and engagement by the FDA to protect the public against inorganic arsenic. Thanks to the initiative of private consumer groups like Consumer Union, we are better able to understand to what degree our water, foods and beverages are tainted with toxic chemicals that quietly accumulate in our bodies.