High levels of arsenic have been found in everything from baby formula to organic foods to energy shots. According to a new study out of Dartmouth University, arsenic, a chemical that has been linked to cancer, chronic disease and developmental effects, have been found in foods that list organic brown rice syrup as a primary ingredient.
The research was published Thursday in the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal and reveals that products containing organic brown rice syrup, which is typically used in place of high fructose corn syrup, contained up to six times the Environmental Protection Agency safe drinking water limit for arsenic.
Researchers tested 17 baby formulas, 29 cereal bars and three different types of energy shot drinks. Two infant formulas that listed brown rice syrup as a primary ingredient had arsenic levels 20 times high than those made without it. One cereal bar tested contained 12 times the legal limit of arsenic for drinking water of 10 parts per billion (ppb). The energy shots had eight to 17 times the limit.
According to The Boston Globe, high levels are arsenic exposure can raise the risk for cancer and heart disease in adults. In children, the chemical can cause them to suffer lower IQs and poorer intellectual functioning.
Dr. Mehmet Oz went on NBC's The TODAY Show on Thursday to discuss the troubling results, specifically the amount contained in baby formula.
It's a big concern for me, Oz said on TODAY. I think it's another reason [why] we need to be very strict on how much arsenic we're going to allow in our food supply. This is especially important for kids, it's in infant formula that we're seeing this stuff, it's in juices that kids are taking.
Lead author of the study, Brian Jackson, said: I don't think there's a real immediate danger. The only comparison is drinking water and the risk factors are based on a lifetime of exposure.
According to Jackson, different kinds of rice take up different amounts of arsenic from the soil. To a rice plant, arsenic looks very much like silica and rice takes up silica to help it stand up in water logged soils.
He did not the danger arsenic in baby formula poses to infants, however. He said that the EPA standards for drinking water are set for adults, not small babies. So the impact could potentially be far greater than now known.
There is a data base for exposure to arsenic in drinking water, Jackson said. But there's nothing out there on food. It's time we looked at this and ask whether we need guidelines for arsenic exposure in food.
Others were even more worried than Jackson.
These results are extremely scary, said Karmally, an associate research scientist at the Columbia University Medical Center, not affiliated with this particular arsenic test. I'm very concerned about the idea of babies on formula that is laced with arsenic. I wish the researchers had told us which of the formulas tested high in arsenic so they could be taken off the market.
Though specific brands were not listed in the study, all products were purchased at local stores in Hanover, N.H.