Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
Consumer Reports, the independent consumer watchdog group, has conducted analysis of a number of different rice products, finding that an array of them–including organic rice baby cereal, rice breakfast cereals, brown rice, and white rice–contain “worrisome” levels of the carcinogenic toxin arsenic. Arsenic is not regulated in food, though the government does have a standard of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for arsenic in drinking water. From Consumer Reports:
Arsenic not only is a potent human carcinogen but also can set up children for other health problems in later life.
Following our January investigation, “Arsenic in Your Juice,” which found arsenic in apple and grape juices, we recently tested more than 200 samples of a host of rice products. They included iconic labels and store brands, organic products and conventional ones; some were aimed at the booming gluten-free market.
The results of our tests were even more troubling in some ways than our findings for juice. In virtually every product tested, we found measurable amounts of total arsenic in its two forms. We found significant levels of inorganic arsenic, which is a carcinogen, in almost every product category, along with organic arsenic, which is less toxic but still of concern. Moreover, the foods we checked are popular staples, eaten by adults and children alike. See the chart summarizing results of our tests for arsenic in rice or rice products.
Though rice isn’t the only dietary source of arsenic—some vegetables, fruits, and even water can harbor it—the Environmental Protection Agency assumes there is actually no “safe” level of exposure to inorganic arsenic.
Click here for a brand-by-brand breakdown of the test results. And follow Consumer Reports’ recommendations for how to reduce your family’s exposure to arsenic found in rice:
Test your water. If your home is not on a public water system, have your water tested for arsenic and lead. To find a certified lab, contact your local health department or call the federal Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.
Change the way you cook rice. You may be able to cut your exposure to inorganic arsenic in rice by rinsing raw rice thoroughly before cooking, using a ratio of 6 cups water to 1 cup rice for cooking and draining the excess water afterward. That is a traditional method of cooking rice in Asia. The modern technique of cooking rice in water that is entirely absorbed by the grains has been promoted because it allows rice to retain more of its vitamins and other nutrients. But even though you may sacrifice some of rice’s nutritional value, research has shown that rinsing and using more water removes about 30 percent of the rice’s inorganic arsenic content.
Eat a varied diet. Some vegetables can accumulate arsenic when grown in contaminated soil. To help, clean vegetables thoroughly, especially potato skins. Some fruit juices such as apple and grape juice are high in arsenic, as our previous tests showed. To prevent obesity and tooth decay, pediatricians advise that infants younger than 6 months shouldn’t drink juice; children up to age 6 should have no more than 4 to 6 ounces a day and older children no more than 8 to 12 ounces. Like grape juice, wine also can be a source of exposure, according to data collected in the FDA’s Total Diet Study, which provides more complete information about arsenic content in a variety of foods. Go to fda.gov and search for “total diet study analytical results.”
Experiment with other grains. Vary your grains, especially if you eat more than two or three servings of rice per week. Though not arsenic-free, wheat and oats tend to have lower levels than rice. And quinoa, millet, and amaranth are among other options for those on a gluten-free diet, though they have not been studied as much.
Image: Rice, via Shutterstock
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Child Health, Must Read, New Research, Parenting News, Safety, Trends
Friday, November 4th, 2011
Johnson & Johnson, the company that makes the iconic Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and other products for babies and children, has announced plans to remove potentially carcinogenic chemicals from its shampoo formulas.
Since 2009, when the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released a report identifying traces of formaldehyde in a number of cosmetic products, including Johnson’s baby shampoo, the debate has escalated over whether government regulation of toxic chemicals in consumer products is sufficient. This past June, the U.S. government’s National Toxicology Program officially identified formaldehyde as a carcinogen, renewing the urgency of the debate.
This week, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released a new report, stating that Johnson & Johnson had removed the formaldehyde-releasing preservative quaternium-15, as well as the chemical byproduct 1,4-dioxane, from their products in some countries, but not in the United States. Parents who wish to avoid these chemicals in the U.S. have to purchase Johnson’s “Naturals” line, which costs more than the standard shampoo formula.
Forbes.com reports that although the Johnson & Johnson has not stated a definitive timeline for removing the chemicals from their products in the U.S., the company did release a statement pledging to phase them out entirely:
When Johnson & Johnson caught wind of the report, they contacted the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and got to work on a statement, indicating that they are in the process of phasing the formaldehyde-releasing preservative out of their baby products, worldwide.
“The preservative technologies we use are safe and approved by authorities in the European Union and in the United States, as well as in China and India, and we have not seen any evidence of allergy in hundreds of millions of real life uses of these products,” the statement reads. “However, we know that some consumers are concerned about formaldehyde, which is why we offer many products without formaldehyde releasing preservatives, and are phasing out these types of preservatives in our baby products worldwide. We are no longer introducing new baby products that contain these types of preservatives. Over the past few years or so, we already have reduced the number of formulations globally with formaldehyde releaser preservatives by 33% and in the U.S. by over 60%.”
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics urges parents to avoid products containing ingredients that may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, including sodium myreth sulfate, PEG compounds and chemicals that include the clauses “xynol,” “ceteareth” and “oleth.” Parents should also avoid products that contain formaldehye-releasing preservatives, including quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea and diazolidinyl urea.
(image via: http://www.instyle.com)
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Friday, July 8th, 2011
The Body Odd blog on MSNBC.com reports on a bizarre trend that may be on the rise: kids soaking marijuana in formaldehyde embalming fluid, then smoking it in order to get a “higher high” than with marijuana alone:
Here’s what’s happening: People seeking an enhanced high soak marijuana joints in, in these particular cases, formaldehyde, for the secondary effects. “Embalming fluid burns more slowly than the marijuana would if it were not treated,” says Dr. Bret Nicks, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, N.C. This technique causes what can be an intense hallucinatory effect.
In the 1990s, there was a rash of cases of overexposure to inhaled formaldehyde, whose side effects included hallucinations, paranoia, panic, and loss of consciousness. This past 4th of July weekend, three Texas teenagers were hospitalized with an overdose of embalming fluid, and two funeral home burglaries were recently reported where formaldehyde was the only stolen item.
If parents need another reason to advise their kids against this practice, they might note that formaldehyde was recently identified as a carcinogen by the US government’s National Toxicology Program.
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