Doctors warn of dangers of arsenic levels in rice for children

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wwltv.com

Posted on September 19, 2012 at 6:03 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 20 at 1:44 PM

Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

NEW ORLEANS -- Consumer Reports is asking the federal government to set limits on arsenic in rice. This comes after its tests found most rice products have arsenic in them.

So what are the dangers, and what should adults and children do about rice in the diet?

The arsenic in pesticides used on cotton crops in the south a century ago are now a concern today.

"If there are high levels of inorganic arsenic in anything, in drinking water, or in food, I wouldn't recommend eating that continuously," said Dr. Jim Diaz, LSU Health Sciences Center's professor and program director of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. He is also assistant professor of Family Medicine.

Inorganic arsenic causes cancer. Target organs include: The bladder, liver, skin and lungs. It can also cause heart problems.

But doctors are concerned about unborn babies and children.

"It's also very harmful to babies' brain development. And if a baby is exposed to arsenic in the womb because the baby's mother is eating arsenic, or if a baby gets arsenic in the first months of life in cereal, rice milk and such, that arsenic can interfere with brain development, reduce the child's intelligent, cause behavioral problems," said Dr. Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician at Mount Sinai New York.

Moderate to high moderate levels were found in white and brown rice, infant rice cereals, rice crackers, rice pasta and rice drinks. The more healthful brown rice had more.

The levels were highest in white rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas. That's a third of the rice produced in the U.S.

As replacements, it suggested other healthful whole grains such as wheat, corn and oats, which have lower arsenic levels.

"There are many other sources of grains which are very important sources of iron, which babies need because many times they are iron deficient," explained Dr. Diaz.

"I think a prudent position for the next few months or years until the FDA standard come out, is that parents avoid rice -- or at least avoid any rice that comes from Texas, Louisiana, Missouri -- stay with California rice, stay with Asian rice, or when in doubt, go with barley, go with oatmeal," said Dr. Landrigan

The FDA is doing additional larger studies and could issue a recommendation by the end of the year.

Ochsner Children's Health Center in Metairie Wednesday had parents coming in and asking what should they do about rice products for their children according to pediatrician Dr. Mike Wasserman.

 

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