Other environmental health and safety

Why Does Rice Have Arsenic?

Elsie Goycoolea
By Elsie Goycoolea. Updated: October 5, 2020
Why Does Rice Have Arsenic?

Rice is a major staple food in many people’s diets that is served in popular dishes including sushi, paella and Chinese fried rice. Rice is a great source of carbohydrates and is often recommended as a part of a healthy diet. However, rice contains moderate levels of arsenic, which is known to be a carcinogen. Food reports have indicated that many food products made with rice contain arsenic, which has prompted experts to study the reason behind finding arsenic in rice.

In this OneHowTo article we answer the question: why does rice have arsenic?

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  1. What is arsenic?
  2. What are the sources of arsenic?
  3. Why does rice have arsenic?
  4. How much arsenic does rice have?

What is arsenic?

Arsenic is a natural poisonous substance similar to a metal called a metalloid. It is found under the Earth’s crust naturally or as a result of human activity predominantly in urban areas.

The inorganic form of arsenic is considered to the most toxic. People exposed to arsenic for a long period of time have a higher risk of skin, bladder and lung cancer, which may ultimately lead to death.

Why Does Rice Have Arsenic? - What is arsenic?

What are the sources of arsenic?

Arsenic may be found dispersed throughout the environment in the air, water and land. Some of the most common sources of arsenic include drinking water, factory work and smoking.

Water that is not properly treated may contain concerning levels of arsenic that is not only found in drinking water, but may also be detected in the water used to prepare food and to irrigate crops. Additionally, this substance can be inhaled from fumes coming from industrial processes or from tobacco smoking.

Why does rice have arsenic?

An optimum balance of soil, water and sunlight is needed to grow rice. It is argued that one of the major factors at play causing high readings of arsenic in rice is the soil used to plant the seeds. Many industrial processes generate pesticides and other inorganic substances that can sink into the Earth and remain in the soil for up to 50 years. Even if many insecticides and fertilizers have been banned these will remain in the soil.

Additionally, rice crops grow better in water flooded conditions. Water may become contaminated with arsenic; as well as, helping the arsenic become better absorbed by the roots of the plant. Most of the arsenic remains in the plant until it is harvested.

How much arsenic does rice have?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a 5 ppb per day limit on arsenic. Most store bought white rice brands contain between 1.3 and 1.6 ppb per serving, which is significantly lower than what is considered to be safe levels of arsenic. Brown rice contains higher levels of arsenic given that removing the outer shell of rice during the processing stage helps to reduce the level of arsenic. Brown rice can contain up to 75 percent more arsenic than white rice.

To be able to reduce the level of arsenic in rice we recommend rinsing the rice, soaking it if possible before cooking and then boiling it with a large quantity of water. We also suggest you incorporate other foods such as corn, buckwheat or quinoa into your diet.

Why Does Rice Have Arsenic? - How much arsenic does rice have?

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Does Rice Have Arsenic?, we recommend you visit our Healthy living category.

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Why Does Rice Have Arsenic?