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Consumer Reports Supports Dr. Oz: 5 Ways to Protect Against Arsenic Poisoning

Tim Boyer's picture

Critics of Dr. Oz who accused him of needlessly alarming millions about the threat of arsenic in apple juice may find themselves drinking sour grape juice with Consumer Reports’ recently released study on arsenic levels in fruit juices. From approximately 3,000 study participants, researchers found that apple juice consumers had on average 19 percent greater levels of total urinary arsenic than those subjects who did not, and those who reported drinking grape juice had 20 percent higher levels. Furthermore, the results are likely an understatement of the real risk due to the study did not include children younger than 6, who tend to be prominent consumers of apple and grape juice. Consumer Reports concludes their report with a list of 5 ways to protect your family against arsenic poisoning in the home.

Arsenic in apple juice concerns and furor over the debate initiated by The Dr. Oz Show raised not just headlines, but also made headway toward the question of whether apple and other fruit juices are truly safe for children. In a recent report by the watchdog agency Consumer Reports, apple juice and grape juice are responsible for increased levels of arsenic in our blood.
The investigation by Consumer Reports on arsenic in apple juice and grape juice released their report on the Internet with the following list of their findings:

• Roughly 10 percent of our juice samples, from five brands, had total arsenic levels that exceeded federal drinking-water standards. Most of that arsenic was inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen.

• One in four samples had lead levels higher than the FDA’s bottled-water limit of 5 ppb. As with arsenic, no federal limit exists for lead in juice.

• Apple and grape juice constitute a significant source of dietary exposure to arsenic, according to our analysis of federal health data from 2003 through 2008.

• Children drink a lot of juice. Thirty-five percent of children 5 and younger drink juice in quantities exceeding pediatricians’ recommendations, our poll of parents shows.

• Mounting scientific evidence suggests that chronic exposure to arsenic and lead even at levels below water standards can result in serious health problems.

• Inorganic arsenic has been detected at disturbing levels in other foods, too, which suggests that more must be done to reduce overall dietary exposure.

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Consumer Reports states that their results are motivating the Consumers Union to press the FDA to regulate standards for apple juice and grape juice at a limit of 3 ppb (parts per billion), which is lower than the current set standard for lead in bottled drinking water at 5 ppb.

They also believe that low levels of arsenic exposure contributes toward many illnesses, but has been overlooked until recently. According to a statement in the report, Dr. Joshua Hamilton, Ph.D., a toxicologist specializing in arsenic research and the chief academic and scientific officer at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts states that, “People sometimes say, ‘If arsenic exposure is so bad, why don’t you see more people sick or dying from it?’ But the many diseases likely to be increased by exposure even at relatively low levels are so common already that its effects are overlooked simply because no one has looked carefully for the connection.”

While a renewed interest in the risk of arsenic in fruit juices and in the risk of other foods are sure to have a profound effect way on how we view what we eat and assume to be safe, Consumer Reports offers the following list of 5 ways to protect your family against arsenic poisoning in the home:

1. Test your water—If your home or a home you’re considering buying isn’t on a public water system, have the home’s water tested for arsenic and lead. To find a certified lab, contact your local health department or call the federal Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791. You can get information for your public-water system from the EPA.

2. Limit children’s juice consumption—Nutrition guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics can help. The academy recommends that infants younger than 6 months shouldn’t drink juice; children up to 6 years old should consume no more than four to six ounces a day and older children, no more than 8 to 12 ounces a day. Diluting juice with distilled or purified water can help meet those goals.

3. Consider your food—Buying certified organic chicken makes sense because organic standards don’t allow the use of chicken feed containing arsenic. But for juice and other foods, it’s not so certain. Organic standards prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers and most pesticides, but organic juices still may contain arsenic if they’re made from fruit grown in soil where arsenical insecticides were used.

4. Need a home-treatment system?—Contact NSF International (800-673-8010) for info on systems certified to lower arsenic levels to no more than 10 ppb. The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension discusses treatment technologies; click on “Removal of Arsenic from Household Water.”

5. If you’re concerned, get tested—Ask your doctor for a urine test for you or your child to determine arsenic levels. Don’t eat seafood for 48 to 72 hours before being tested to avoid misleadingly high levels from “fish arsenic.” For a medical toxicologist in your area who can interpret results, call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222.

Reference: Consumer Reports