A winemaker recently asked about the impact of Arsenic found in the groundwater at her new property. There are a lot of misconceptions about Arsenic in foods and beverages, so it’s time to make some clarifications…
Arsenic can be found in water, air, soil and foods as a naturally occurring compound, or even as a result of human activities.
In food and drink, arsenic may be present as inorganic arsenic (the most toxic form) or organic arsenic. Arsenic in groundwater is a common issue in California as well as other wine-growing regions.
There is no denying the toxicity of Arsenic. In high enough quantities it will kill you, and it has also been described as a carcinogen. According to the US Cancer Society:“Exposure to high levels of arsenic has been linked to several types of cancer.
In studies done in the lab, animals are exposed to a substance (often in very large doses) to see if it causes tumors or other health problems. Researchers may also expose normal cells in a lab dish to the substance to see if it causes the types of changes that are seen in cancer cells. It’s not always clear if the results from these types of studies will apply to humans, but lab studies are the best way to find out if a substance could possibly cause cancer in humans before widespread exposure occurs.
Another type of study looks at cancer rates in different groups of people. Such a study might compare the cancer rate in a group exposed to a substance to the rate in a group not exposed to it, or compare it to what the expected cancer rate would be in the general population. But sometimes it can be hard to know what the results of these studies mean, because many other factors that might affect the results are hard to account for.
- Prepared, packed, or held under conditions that are insanitary
- Contains any poisonous or deleterious substance which may cause the food to be injurious to health
- Contains an unapproved food additive.
- Ferrous iron in the water can rust out into ferric iron aids in arsenic precipitation
- Certain clays can bind to arsenic
- Oxygenation of irrigation water can change Arsenic III to Arsenic V, which impacts absorbability
- Certain bacteria bind almost irreversibly to certain Arsenic compounds
- Hematite and Geothite effectively adsorb Arsenic.
- Under the correct pH conditions, iron and sulfates can combine to form unique ferrous compounds that sequestrate Arsenic