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25-09-2012 | Pathology | Article

Concern grows about rice-related arsenic exposure


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medwireNews: US children who consume rice have significantly higher levels of urinary arsenic than children who do not, show study results.

These findings add to those of previous research that found concerning levels of arsenic in rice and related products such as brown rice syrup.

Indeed, the US Food and Drug Administration is currently investigating levels of arsenic in around 1200 rice products in the USA to assess whether any consumer recommendations are required, although they are not currently suggesting that people should change their consumption of rice or its associated products.

In the current study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, Margaret Karagas (Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire, USA) and colleagues analyzed National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003 to 2008 data from 2323 children aged 6 to 17 years. The researchers evaluated the relationship between consumption of cooked rice over a 24-hour period and subsequent urinary arsenic concentration.

The median total urinary arsenic concentration in children who reported eating rice over the previous 24 hours (n=471) was 8.9 µg/L compared with 5.5 µg/L in children who did not (n=1852). Similarly, the median urinary dimethylarsinic acid (DMA) concentration was significantly higher in rice eaters than nonrice eaters, at 6.0 versus 3.6 µg/L.

Following adjustment for potential confounding factors including participant characteristics, serum cotinine, and urinary creatinine, each additional quarter cup (14.1 g white rice dry weight) of rice consumed was associated with 14.3% and 13.5% increases in urinary total arsenic and DMA, respectively.

These findings are of concern as "emerging evidence indicates the potential for adverse health effects from inorganic arsenic exposure at the relatively low exposure levels common to populations worldwide, including an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, and diabetes, and gestational diabetes," write the authors.

"Previous studies have associated childhood exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic, primarily from drinking water, with numerous adverse health effects, including neurobehavioral effects such as reduced vocabulary and object assembly skills, attention and memory, and intelligence," they add.

"However, it is currently unknown whether low-levels of arsenic exposure, or from arsenic intake via rice specifically, have similar effects."

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter


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