Arsenic In Rice Could Chromosomal Damage
July 22, 2013

Rice Could Raise Level Of Genetic Damage

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

According to a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports, rice could raise the risk of genetic damage in humans.

Researchers discovered that high concentrations of arsenic in rice could cause chromosomal damage. They found that people in rural West Bengal eating rice  with greater than 0.2 mg/kg arsenic as a staple showed higher frequencies of micronuclei than those consuming rice with less arsenic.

The study screened more than 400,000 individual cells extracted from urine samples from volunteers. The team chose a study population with a relatively similar dietary and socioeconomic status that was not exposed to arsenic through drinking water.

The link between rice containing arsenic and genetic damage was found for both men and women, for tobacco-users and non-users, and for those from three different locations within the study. The pattern observed was similar to that seen for people exposed to arsenic through drinking water, which has been know to cause several healthproblems, including cancers.

Researchers say the study raises concerns about health impacts of consuming high arsenic rice as a staple, particularly for people who have a relatively poor nutritional status.

"Although concerns about arsenic in rice have been raised for some time now, to our knowledge, this is the first time a link between consumption of arsenic-bearing rice and genetic damage has been demonstrated," said Professor David Polya, who led the Manchester team in the University's School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences. "As such, it vindicates increasing concerns expressed by the European Food Safety Authority and others about the adequacy of regulation of arsenic in rice."

He pointed out that rice is an easily stored food that provides essential energy, vitamins and fiber to billions of people around the world. However, he added that a small proportion of rice contains arsenic at concentrations that cause significant genetic damage in people who consume it as a staple food.

"We hope that our work will encourage efforts to introduce regulatory standards for arsenic in food, and particularly in rice, which are more consistent and protective of human health," Polya said.

Dr. Ashok K Giri, who led the Indian research team, said that although high arsenic in rice is a potential threat to human health, no one should panic.

"We can avoid high arsenic rice by taking proper mitigation strategies for rice cultivation; moreover, one CSIR institute in India has already identified a number of Indian rice varieties which accumulate lower concentrations of arsenic, so we can easily address future human health risks with proper mitigation strategies," Giri said. "Results of this study will not only help to understand the toxic effects caused by this human carcinogen but also these results will help the scientists and regulatory authorities to design further extensive research to set improved regulatory values for arsenic in rice, particularly for those billions of people who consume 10 to 50 [percent] rice in their daily diet."