Infants consuming rice products have a higher concentration of arsenic in their urine than those who do not eat the food items, according to a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation for inorganic arsenic levels in polished white rice is 200 nanograms per gram (ng/g) while that of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is at 100 ng/g. The researchers of the new study, led by Margaret R. Karagas from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, argue that many rice cereal for babies exceed these limits.
The arsenic found in rice and its products can be in two forms: organic and inorganic. While the harm of inorganic arsenic is established, some researchers also purport that the organic one is potentially detrimental to health, though no concrete evidence exists.
The results of the new research show that infants who ate rice or foods to which rice was added had higher arsenic levels that those children who ate no rice. Furthermore, those consuming brown or white rice had two times more arsenic in their urine than those who ate no rice.
This caused the researchers to conclude that the consumption of rice among infants increases their exposure to the toxin. They recommend that new regulations are introduced so that the exposure to arsenic is reduced at this important stage of development.
Another worrying aspect of the study is that children seem to be much more sensitive to the toxin than adults, and, therefore, have a greater risk of impaired growth, immune responses, and neurodevelopmental outcomes as a consequence of even low exposure.
Would this study apply to all infants eating rice? The authors explain that their participants are from northern New England who use private, unregulated water systems, and that this might affect their results such that they might not be general. Moreover, other food items might be adding to the effect, and this was not accounted for in the research. However, they say that their results are worth to be taken into consideration.