From: Jennifer Langston, University of Washington
Published October 7, 2015 09:11 AM

Arsenic found in many US red wines

A new University of Washington study that tested 65 wines from America’s top four wine-producing states — California, Washington, New York and Oregon — found all but one have arsenic levels that exceed what’s allowed in drinking water.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows drinking water to contain no more than 10 parts per billion of arsenic. The wine samples ranged from 10 to 76 parts per billion, with an average of 24 parts per billion.

But a companion study concluded that the likely health risks from that naturally-occurring toxic element depend on how many other foods and beverages known to be high in arsenic, such as apple juice, rice, or cereal bars, an individual person eats. The highest risks from arsenic exposure stem from certain types of infant formulas, the study estimated.

The two studies from UW electrical engineering professor Denise Wilson appear on the cover of the October issue of the Journal of Environmental Health.

“Unless you are a heavy drinker consuming wine with really high concentrations of arsenic, of which there are only a few, there’s little health threat if that’s the only source of arsenic in your diet,” said Wilson.

“But consumers need to look at their diets as a whole. If you are eating a lot of contaminated rice, organic brown rice syrup, seafood, wine, apple juice — all those heavy contributors to arsenic poisoning — you should be concerned, especially pregnant women, kids and the elderly.”

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that is toxic to humans in some forms, and can cause skin, lung and bladder cancers, and other diseases. As rain, rivers or wind erode rocks that contain arsenic, it leaches into water and soil. From there, the toxic metalloid can work its way into the food chain.

The UW study is the first peer-reviewed research in decades to look at the arsenic content of American wines. As a group, they had higher arsenic levels than their European counterparts, likely due to the underlying geology of U.S. wine growing regions.

All but one of the tested wines exceeded the 10 parts per billion EPA drinking water standard for arsenic, and some New York wines exceeded the 15 parts per billion drinking water standard for lead.

The study looked at red wines, except from two areas in Washington where only white wines were produced, because they are made with the skin of grapes where arsenic that is absorbed from soil tends to concentrate.

Continue reading at the University of Washington.

Red wine image via Shutterstock.

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