Loading...

Arsenic in Rice a Persistent Problem and Climate Change Could be Making it Worse

August 18, 2021 by Alexa Hornbeck
Arsenic in Rice a Persistent Problem and Climate Change Could be Making it Worse
(Wikimedia Commons)

A recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reviews decades of efforts by scientists to get arsenic out of rice. 

Arsenic, in inorganic form, is a pollutant which can stem from industrial processes and pesticides, and chronic exposure can lead to health conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. 

A team of researchers first discovered the toxic pollutant was present in rice in the early 2000s, and in 2012 an analysis revealed that nearly all 65 types of rice and rice products produced contained arsenic, many at concerning levels. 

In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended that arsenic levels in rice-based infant cereals be lowered.

While data shows that the levels of arsenic in rice grains are dropping, the concerns about arsenic levels persist, and may be worsened by climate change, as recent research shows that higher temperatures can increase the uptake of arsenic by rice plants. 

That’s why scientists are scrambling to develop solutions for getting arsenic out of rice, but finding that many of the techniques that decrease arsenic can increase another toxin called cadmium, which is also potentially deadly.

One solution considered by researchers is silicon, a primary nutrient in husks, and an abundant metalloid that is non-toxic when ingested, to outcompete arsenic for entry into the plant. 

To test silicon as a solution, a team of researchers added silica gel to arsenic-contaminated soil and found it could lower arsenic levels in rice grain by as much as 40%.

However, the fertilizers are expensive, leading the researchers to try rice husks, which are high in silicon and low in arsenic. 

In 2016, the team confirmed that adding rice husks to potted rice plants resulted in grains with 25 to 50% less inorganic arsenic.

Other solutions involve manipulating paddy water and soil.

In 2019, a team of researchers found that letting soil moisture drop to 35% volumetric water content twice during the growing season can halve the inorganic arsenic in the field grain compared to existing flooding paddies, but may not be effective for regions where there are high cadmium levels.

Inverting soil can also decrease arsenic in rice grains, but a separate team of researchers in Bangladesh found the solution is only temporary, as irrigation water will continue to deposit more arsenic.

To develop longer lasting solutions to getting arsenic out of rice, scientists are now turning to genetics to understand why certain varieties of rice, like basmati, accumulate less arsenic. 

This past March, a team of researchers revealed a genetic mutation that indirectly reduces arsenic accumulation in rice grain by about a third, and they are now attempting to harness this mutation to breed low-arsenic rice. 

Still, the need for a more permanent and safe solution for getting arsenic out of rice remains, and problem may be made worse by the prospect of a warmer future, as the data shows that doubling atmospheric CO2 and increasing temperature by 5 °C nearly doubled the inorganic arsenic concentration in rice grains.

In The News

Health

Voting

Health

January 19, 2022
by Alexa Hornbeck
Survey Reveals New Findings About Drug Affordability

A survey was released yesterday by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation that uses National Health Interview Survey... Read More

A survey was released yesterday by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation that uses National Health Interview Survey data to estimate that 3.5 million adults 65 and older had trouble paying for medications in 2019. According to the survey, more than 5 million Medicare... Read More

January 19, 2022
by Alexa Hornbeck
CBO Releases Report on Nationwide Spending on Prescription Drugs

The Congressional Budget Office released a report this week that examines trends in nationwide spending on prescription drugs over the 1980-2018 period,... Read More

The Congressional Budget Office released a report this week that examines trends in nationwide spending on prescription drugs over the 1980-2018 period, and provides a detailed analysis of trends in spending, use and prices in the Medicare Part D and Medicaid programs over the 2009-2018 period.  The report... Read More

January 19, 2022
by Alexa Hornbeck
Biden Will Provide Free, High-Quality Masks to Americans

On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced plans to provide 400 million free high-quality N95 masks to Americans starting next week.... Read More

On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced plans to provide 400 million free high-quality N95 masks to Americans starting next week. According to a White House official, the effort is the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history.  The masks will come from the Strategic... Read More

January 19, 2022
by Alexa Hornbeck
Study Shows Herpes-Related Virus Likely Causes Multiple Sclerosis

A recent study finds that the Epstein-Barr virus, a member of the herpes virus family, is likely what causes multiple sclerosis. MS... Read More

A recent study finds that the Epstein-Barr virus, a member of the herpes virus family, is likely what causes multiple sclerosis. MS is a progressive disease that affects the central nervous system of 2.8 million people worldwide, but for a long time its etiology has been unknown. To... Read More

January 19, 2022
by Alexa Hornbeck
Kaiser Mental Health Physicians Strike, Demand Culturally Competent Care

On Monday, according to information from the National Union of Healthcare Workers, nearly 200 mental health clinicians from Kaiser Permanente,... Read More

On Monday, according to information from the National Union of Healthcare Workers, nearly 200 mental health clinicians from Kaiser Permanente, a major health care company, took to the streets of Oakland, California, with demands for more culturally responsive care for communities of color. The strike was... Read More

January 19, 2022
by Alexa Hornbeck
AI-Based Risk Models May Change the Process of Breast Cancer Screening

A recent study published in Nature Medicine examines the role of AI in improving screening programs by advancing early detection of breast cancer... Read More

A recent study published in Nature Medicine examines the role of AI in improving screening programs by advancing early detection of breast cancer while reducing over-screening. Breast cancer is currently the most diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women worldwide, with 281,550 new cases of... Read More

News From The Well
Exit mobile version