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New report links cancer-causing arsenic and fruit juice

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by Aimee Keenan-Greene

A new investigation by Consumer Reports  (CR) says ten percent of apple and grape juice samples from five brands had total arsenic levels that exceeded federal drinking-water standards. 

The arsenic they detected was inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen.  One in four samples had lead levels higher than the FDA’s bottled-water limit of 5 ppb. No federal limit exists for lead in juice.

The juice was bought in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York (download a PDF of their complete test results). CR also reviewed a scientific analysis of federal health data, conducted a consumer poll and conducted interviews with doctors as part of the investigation. 

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element found in groundwater. It’s abundant in New England, the Midwest, and the Southwest. Other sources of arsenic exposure include coal-fired power plants and smelters that heat arsenic-containing ores to process copper or lead.

Chronic arsenic exposure can cause gastrointestinal problems and skin discoloration or lesions. The World Health Organization says over many years arsenic exposure could increase the risk of cancers, high blood pressure, diabetes, reproductive problems, and has been suspected in learning disabilities.

Consumer Reports says apple and grape juice constituted a significant source of dietary exposure to arsenic because parents report thirty-five percent of children under  five drink juice in quantities that exceed pediatricians’ recommendations.

According to the CR poll, one in four toddlers 2 and younger and 45 percent of children ages 3 to 5 drink 7 or more ounces of juice a day. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges that prevent obesity and tooth decay, children younger than 6 should drink no more than 6 ounces a day. That's about the size of one juice box. Infants under 6 months should not drink juice.  

Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, will now urge the FDA to set lead standards for apple and grape juice to meet the 5 ppb lead limit enforced for bottled water and an even lower arsenic limit for juice of 3 ppb.

Besides limiting your family's juice consumption, you can reduce their exposure to arsenic by having your home’s water tested for arsenic and lead. To find a certified lab contact the federal Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791. Information about your public-water system  is also available from the EPA.

 

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