Like Red Wine with Dinner? Maybe Think Again

First it was rice.  Now it's red wine.

Arsenic, anyone?

According to a new study, arsenic is found in many red wines, even some in the metro New York region.   A new University of Washington study that tested 65 wines from America's top four wine-producing states — California, Washington, New York and Oregon — found all but one have arsenic levels that exceed what's allowed in drinking water.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows drinking water to contain no more than 10 parts per billion of arsenic. The wine samples ranged from 10 to 76 parts per billion, with an average of 24 parts per billion.

But a companion study concluded that the likely health risks from that naturally-occurring toxic element depend on how many other foods and beverages known to be high in arsenic, such as apple juice, rice, or cereal bars, an individual person eats. Want to be really scared?  The highest risks from arsenic exposure stem from certain types of infant formulas, the study estimated.

Unless you are a heavy drinker consuming wine with really high concentrations of arsenic, of which there are only a few, there's little health threat if that's the only source of arsenic in your diet," says UW electrical engineering professor Denise Wilson ."But consumers need to look at their diets as a whole. If you are eating a lot of contaminated rice, organic brown rice syrup, seafood, wine, apple juice — all those heavy contributors to arsenic poisoning — you should be concerned, especially pregnant women, kids and the elderly."

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that is toxic to humans in some forms, and can cause skin, lung and bladder cancers, and other diseases. As rain, rivers or wind erode rocks that contain arsenic, it leaches into water and soil. From there, the toxic metalloid can work its way into the food chain.

So should you stop drinking red wine?  Probably not.  But cut down a little?  That might be wise.


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