4 Sources of Arsenic You’d Never Expect
Published April 28, 2015
If you’re a fan of classic murder mysteries, chances are you know how deadly arsenic can be. There are two forms of this heavy metal that we need to worry about: organic and inorganic. Now, organic arsenic is completely different than the organic label on food. In arsenic, it simply refers to the presence of carbon. It’s also seen as the lesser of two evils. “Inorganic” arsenic, though, is nasty stuff, with lots of health concerns attached to it. 
Crazy Sources of Arsenic
Whether you know it or not, you could be exposing yourself to arsenic on a daily basis. Fortunately for us, we aren’t ingesting this toxin at dangerous levels; however, an accumulation of any toxic compound may cause issues in the long term. Any form of arsenic is dangerous, and here are 4 sources you’d never expect.
1. Baby Formula
Arsenic is bad news for all, but babies are especially vulnerable. Did you know that exposure to arsenic early in life could even lead to higher risk of death, lower birth weight, and lower IQ?  Believe it or not, baby formula can even contain low levels of arsenic. A better solution is breastfeeding since it could offer protection from arsenic exposure even if women have come into contact with high levels.
2. Old Toys
Saving your childhood toys just for your little one seems like a lovely gesture, but it could be doing more harm than good. Plastic toys from the 70s and 80s have been shown to contain toxic levels of heavy metals that exceed concentration limits set by the US and Europe.  And while some newer toys—mainly imports—could contain heavy metals, remember that older toys, even those made in America, are not subjected to importation regulations.
A recent Consumer Reports study suggests the extremely toxic inorganic arsenic can get into water and soil from lead-arsenate insecticides. From there, rice can absorb that toxin like a sponge. While these insecticides were banned from the US in the 80s, residue still lingers.  Long-term exposure to any arsenic can cause cancer, and studies even suggest some rice products already exceed the current arsenic limits for children. 
4. Drinking Water
One of our most precious resources–our water–can even be polluted with arsenic. While the EPA sets a threshold for maximum exposure in public drinking water–not the most comforting thought—private well water isn’t regulated at all.   If you’re formula feeding your baby like I mentioned in my first point, arsenic in the drinking water can be especially problematic. One recent report suggests an infant’s arsenic levels from baby formula mixed with the drinking water could be 7.5 times higher than a breastfed baby.
One Final Thought
While avoiding arsenic altogether might be unrealistic, you can make a difference in your life when it comes to exposure. So, for all the new and expecting mothers out there, remember: while breastfeeding is the best solution for your baby, if you have to formula-feed, make sure you know what’s in your drinking water. Any dose of arsenic is going to be bad: at low doses, it can still be an endocrine disruptor for babies, kids, and adults. Keep in mind that arsenic also occurs naturally in many foods. Apple seeds being a prime example. So, you don’t have to go crazy; just eliminate man-made foods and products as much as possible to ensure a healthier environment for you and those you love.
What would you do to avoid arsenic exposure? Tell us in the comments.
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
- Institute of Food Technologists. Should arsenic in food be a concern? ScienceDaily.
- Karaga M. et al. Estimated Exposure to Arsenic in Breastfed and Formula-Fed Infants in a United States Cohort. Environmental Health Perspectives.
- Miller, G. Z. & Harris, Z. E. Hazardous Metals in Vintage Plastic Toys Measured by a Handheld X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer. Journal of Environmental Health. 77 (6).
- Consumer Reports. Arsenic in Your Food. Consumer Reports.
- Chen, C. J. et al. Cancer potential in liver, lung, bladder and kidney due to ingested inorganic arsenic in drinking water. British Journal of Cancer. 66 (5).
- Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Many US wells tainted with arsenic. ScienceDaily.
- Environmental Protection Agency. Arsenic in Drinking Water. Environmental Protection Agency.
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