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The Risky Business of Eating in America

Health & Wellness  (tags: abuse, arsenic, babies, cancer, children, diet, disease, drugs, family, food, government, healthcare, illness, investigation, medicine, nutrition, prevention, protection, research, safety, science, society, study, treatment )

- 2074 days ago -
What the Romans didn't know about arsenic, and what scientists didn't discover until the 20th century, is that a form of it -- inorganic arsenic -- causes cancer. *People need to know about this*

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Kit B (276)
Thursday October 18, 2012, 8:04 am
(Photo: mandy&john/Flickr)

Long before human beings decoded the human genome or split the atom, they discovered that arsenic is very good at killing things. The ancient Romans prized it as a murder weapon because it could be mixed into food or drink without altering its color, taste, or smell. Plus, a tiny dose kills without fail.

What the Romans didn't know about arsenic, and what scientists didn't discover until the 20th century, is that a form of it — inorganic arsenic — causes cancer. And in 1999, the National Academy of Sciences found that the amount of arsenic legally allowed in U.S. drinking water posed serious cancer risks.

Since then, the U.S. government slashed the amount allowed in drinking water from 50 micrograms per liter to just 10. The potent carcinogenicity of arsenic was what Donald Rumsfeld might call an "unknown unknown" for most of human history. So was the fact that Americans can consume dangerous amounts of inorganic arsenic in one of our most common foods: rice.

Consumer Reports dropped that bombshell on the nation in September, recommending that adults limit rice consumption to just two servings per week if they wish to reduce their cancer risk from inorganic arsenic. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration didn't go so far as to recommend Americans limit their rice intake. But the agency did say that "consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains." They also published their own data on arsenic in rice. It was consistent with the findings of Consumer Reports.

How did such a healthy food — often one of the first solid foods parents spoon into their babies' mouths — suddenly become a deadly, cancer-causing agent? For one thing, rice is the only major crop grown under water. That allows it to absorb arsenic more easily than other crops. And though some arsenic will always occur naturally in soil and water, humans have added a whole lot more.

The United States, it turns out, is the world's leading user of arsenic. Since 1910, American agriculture and industry used 1.6 million tons of arsenic — and we've used about half of that since the mid-1960s. Arsenic was once such a popular pesticide that in the 1930s, millions of Americans suffered from mild to severe arsenic poisoning.

Until recently, most pressure-treated wood contained arsenic, and factory-farmed chickens were given a drug containing arsenic too. The government has worked to phase out arsenical pesticides and herbicides, but even now some are allowed.

Now that we know more about the dangers of miniscule doses of inorganic arsenic, we're working to stop adding more of it to our environment and our food supply. But the toxicity of arsenic won't be the last "unknown unknown" that we confront. Decades from now, scientists will discover that chemicals we now think are safe are actually deadly.

Here in the United States, we treat things as safe until proven dangerous. That leaves us perpetually in the position of discovering that chemicals are toxic only after they are in our bodies, our homes, and our environment, poisoning us and our kids.

There's a way to prevent disasters like poisoning of our food and water with arsenic from occurring: the Precautionary Principle. It's the simple notion that we should not do something until it is proven safe. The European Union uses the Precautionary Principle, but our nation doesn't.

Maybe we should try it. Surely the inconvenience of confirming a chemical's safety is worth it if that means future generations won't find themselves feeding their babies cancer-causing poisons.

by Jill Richardson | Common Dreams |

Sue H (7)
Thursday October 18, 2012, 9:06 am
Maybe we should Demand Better from our "government" agencies??

Nancy M (169)
Thursday October 18, 2012, 1:34 pm
That which doesn't kill me gives me cancer?

Kit B (276)
Thursday October 18, 2012, 1:51 pm

We should demand that our government agencies do the task at hand, are properly funded and actually do some inspections and give the public notice about health problems.

Yvonne White (229)
Thursday October 18, 2012, 2:21 pm
So the FDA just ASSUMES things are okay until other scientists PROVE it's not? But even then it's still allowed - oh, but in smaller quantities...and we don't actually Test everything or even one thing if we're know how it is.. Atrazine in the water of MOST MidWest towns because of field run-off, but not to worry because the fall-out from Fukashima was so high they had to Increase that "allowed" radiation crap..*shaking head..exhaling sadly, trying NOT to inhale anything!;)*
"There's a way to prevent disasters like poisoning of our food and water with arsenic from occurring: the Precautionary Principle. It's the simple notion that we should not do something until it is proven safe. The European Union uses the Precautionary Principle, but our nation doesn't.
Maybe we should try it. Surely the inconvenience of confirming a chemical's safety is worth it if that means future generations won't find themselves feeding their babies cancer-causing poisons."


Mac R (289)
Thursday October 18, 2012, 4:54 pm
The FDA and USDA have always been pathetic about the safety of our food supply, but since Reagan they have become increasingly merely rubber stamp bureaucracies for bgi agrabiz and chemical GMO giants like Monsanto. These corporatioons' lawyers and reps are the people populating the USDA and FDA boards, passing new rules and regs that allow them to further degrade our food supply in the name of maximizing profits---- and neither political party is on the peoples' side. Obama appointed a Monsanto lawyer to the "advisory" board for the USDA, and surprise! they instantly approved several new GMO crops with rulings that allowed for NO follow-up testing or monitoring of these frankenfood crops, calling them "substantially equivalent" to natural seeds.

Prop 37 herer in California is our best hoppe of getting a handle on the GMO labeling problem, but that has no bearing on the levels of arsenic in our food and water systems.

Only when enough people are made aware of these systemic breakdwons within our government and start yelling loudly about them will any positive change happen.

Kamila A (141)
Thursday October 18, 2012, 5:05 pm
Just imagine, Romney wants to get rid of "big government" and let business have free reign!!!! NEVER!!! We need to have watchdogs for these heinous businesses that don't care about anything but the dollar bill.

Past Member (0)
Thursday October 18, 2012, 5:37 pm

Sheryl G (360)
Thursday October 18, 2012, 7:15 pm
Here in the United States, we treat things as safe until proven dangerous.

What a fine policy for what we've been told is the greatest Nation on Earth to live in.

That we have such an educated society.

That it is a Christian Nation, one full of compassion and love for each other.

That our Leaders want the very best for us and we should be very grateful we don't live someplace else.

Yup, keep drinking the kool-aid and live in the illusion. Go vote, one of the two lessor of two evils in and sit back and relax. Your cancer is just around the corner and then you'll not have to worry about it any longer.

Keep the same ones in power that have allowed this to continue on so that your children and grandchildren can have the privilege to experience the same or worse. Yup, just keep on Fracking. (Keep On Truckin') Remember the energy of those days? What happened? Why didn't the torch get picked up?

David C (129)
Friday October 19, 2012, 6:31 am
sorry, Kit, but c2 won't let me send you anothe star.....great share!

Jean M (143)
Friday October 19, 2012, 10:36 am
I was deeply disturbed by the announcement that we should not have rice as a part of our healthy diet. We eat mountains of rice at our house. I was even more disturbed when I saw an interview with the director of health and human services who would not give a definate yay or nay on all the studies that had been done, at least until they have conducted their own study. Yeah right!!!

Dee C (229)
Friday October 19, 2012, 10:37 am
When one reflect on the size of their government..I am certain most would agree that it ought to be “big” enough to keep arsenic out of the food supply..But the comedy of errors between the three different agencies that allowed so much arsenic onto our farms and then our dinner tables is exactly the sort of disaster that causes voters to throw up their hands and wish the government would go away altogether.. They really need to get it together..

It is a shame that this is still allowed..

Dee C (229)
Friday October 19, 2012, 10:39 am
Same here Jean..I also eat a lot of it..

Kit B (276)
Friday October 19, 2012, 10:58 am

Great comments here, thanks to all for giving this your time and consideration. Rice is no longer a part of my diet, and I checked on the local water...then called because arsenic is not listed. I was told they don't check for that.

A friend of mine said something that may be true, with all polluted air, water and foods, we all have some form of cancer that has not shown itself ...yet.

Mary Donnelly (47)
Friday October 19, 2012, 3:53 pm
Great post and comments. Thanks Kit.

JL A (281)
Friday October 19, 2012, 6:34 pm
scary what ignorance and nondisclosure does...and someone wants to muzzles the scientists working for the public aka government?

Sandra M Z (114)
Friday October 19, 2012, 8:10 pm
One article stated that organic rice is tainted too, as arsenic does not "go away" over time:(.

As we have many wanting jobs, let's get those new futuristic food growing buildings into every neighborhood, and grow untainted organic everything:). It seems the final frontier until future generations can clean up the 20th Century's chemical/industrial legacy.

Noted, Thank you Kit.

reft h (66)
Friday October 19, 2012, 11:45 pm
thanks for the article

Angelika R (143)
Saturday October 20, 2012, 4:00 am
Thanks Kit for bringing up this topic of major importance again. The more one reads on such issues the more convinced one must become of it being fact that "they" actually want to kill "us".
As I stated in earlier comments on this rice issue I'll just repeat here German research findings: CALIFORNIAN rice contains the LEAST of arsenic while ASIAN rice has MOST of it.
I too was consuming lots of rice and sadly will have to kick the habit, just using up my stocks and phase out.

Mac R (289)
Saturday October 20, 2012, 3:09 pm
Angelika, in two other (than this one) articles I read on this issue they claimed that rice grown in the south and midwest of the US had the highest concentrations of arsenic, but didn't mention California that I recall. But they did say that the south and midwest US grown rice was higher than most of the Orient. I'm not disputing you, just passing on info that I've read.

MarietteAWAY G (175)
Saturday October 20, 2012, 3:28 pm
Thanks for sharing this Kit! Great comments! Sorry I can't star you Sheryl :-)

Lois Jordan (63)
Saturday October 20, 2012, 6:20 pm
Noted & thanks for the good info, Kit. We need to continue funding the EPA and imposing regulations on how our food is grown and handled. We can continue to press Pres. Obama, Congress and the agencies on these health issues. I'm sure Willard will just fall in with GOP rhetoric to de-fund the EPA and other important overseers, while ending important regulations rather than imposing strong, new ones.

M B (62)
Sunday October 21, 2012, 1:09 pm
I'm very upset about the rice ! Shame on the government not to inform us properly.

Sunday October 21, 2012, 1:09 pm
There appear to be different sets of rules for two different societies. One for the rulers class with include the corporate elite, political hiarchy, government bureaucrats, and then their is rules for the rest of us. Rules and policies that govern the rest of us is basically imposed, and shoved down our throats as if we are children. No matter how much we complain the attitude is ,"yah, yah". Deal with it anyway.

These sets of priorities also seem to occur worldwide as we witness Greece, Spain, the UK and our very own Occupy Wall street. Now we are fed two candidates that have held two debates and not much have been discussed about the joblessness, foreclosure, and the vast middle class moving into poverty. The closest the candidates come is helping the middle class and creating more jobs.

We must come to the realization that austerity is coming no matter who is in office. Having arsenic in our food will be the least of our worries when this onslaught against us all gets into full gear. Just like Greece, Spain, and the UK we must ready ourselves for the ruling elite who fail to hear or acknowledge us.

Kevin A. (0)
Monday October 22, 2012, 10:42 pm
Hello everyone, I'm new to the site. I would like to share my personal story. I was poisoned with inorganic arsenic on 2 separate occasions. I was denied medical care and medication, I was even told that nothing was wrong with me, it was all in my head. Once I was diagnosed with elevated levels of arsenic in my system, still nothing was done. This is just a very brief outline of what i have endured. I have been suffering for the pass 11months with no treatment or medication. Can someone from the site, help me get medical care for this toxin that's wrecking havoc on my health.
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