The consumption of “Arsenic” is more common than you may think. Arsenic is a colorless, odorless and tasteless chemical-mineral associated with who-done-it murder mysteries, fictional or factual. Arsenic is toxic to humans as well as animals and is classified as a class 1 carcinogen. It has been used in history and/or currently used for everything from medicine, cosmetic, insecticides, and for killing rodents. Hence, it is the ideal poison. In the early 1940’s arsenic was approved by US FDA to be added to livestock’s feed. Arsenic fed to chickens, hogs and turkeys was the preferred way to treat and control parasites, increase weight gain and improve the color of the meat.
Arsenic occurs naturally and by contamination in the environment. The chemical is found in water, air, and soil. Chances are that you may have taken in more arsenic than you know. Arsenic was sprayed over farm fields as an insecticide. Air borne arsenic is much more dangerous than if it is ingested. It can accumulate in the lungs, while eating small amounts should metabolize in the stomach and be excreted through the kidneys before it builds up.
The FDA has identified higher rates of skin cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer and heart disease associated with long term exposure. Research at Darthmouth University has also confirmed that arsenic can generate diabetes, cancer, vascular and lung disease. The Center for Food Safety along with 8 other consumer groups filed a suit against the FDA in 2009 in order to ban the use of arsenic in animal feed. In October 2013 the FDA officially withdrew their approval and banned 3 of the 4 arsenic supplements. The chemicals were Roxarsone, Carbarsone and Arsanilic acid. The fourth one is Nitarsone which is still approved for use in the United States to treat blackhead disease in turkeys.
The environmental problems are directly linked to the manure from the animals that ate the arsenic, and then used for fertilizer. The fertilizer releases the arsenic into the ground which finds its way into the water, on the surface of the crops, especially potatoes and is readily absorbed in rice. Of course, the arsenic that was sprayed on farm fields has also assimilated into the water systems. In some third world countries, like Bangladesh, the water table is contaminated. In India, between 1983 and 1997, cancers related to arsenic-contaminated water rose from 0 to 220 a year.
Contamination has been found in or on organic as well as commercially grown crops. Supposedly, no arsenic has been found inside the crops. Vegetables and potatoes should be thoroughly washed. Rice grown in the south-central United States may have the highest content due to the use of tremendous amounts of arsenic that was used to kill weevil beetles in the cotton fields. Not all rice is contaminated; it does depend upon where it was grown. Rice should be cooked in larger amounts of water and then rinsed well. Rice cereals, baby food, pasta, flour, drinks and pet food made with rice may contain arsenic. Several years ago high levels of arsenic were found in grape and apple juices. People who drink water from wells should periodically have their water tested for contamination. Symptoms of arsenic poisoning can be in the form of a headache that is usually centered behind one or both eyes. Another symptom can be numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, described “as though they are asleep.” Stomach cramps, bowel trouble and discolored and brittle nails can also be a sign.
The European Union has never approved arsenic based compounds for animal feed. At this time consumer groups are pushing the FDA to ban Nitarsone from turkey feed.
The “Old Lace”, may be the cloth that’s on your dining room table.