The average American consumes about 31 lb. of rice through their diets every year, and that number is growing. Although rice is generally considered to be a healthy addition to our diets, a shocking new study has revealed that imported rice contains dangerously high levels of highly toxic heavy metals like lead.
Lead is a toxin that harms the brain, raises blood pressure and increases the risk for anemia and cardiovascular disease. Recently, Tsanangurayi Tongesayi, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Monmouth University in New Jersey, and his colleagues set out to determine how much lead was in rice grown in different parts of the world. They discovered that imported rice contains levels of lead that range from 6 to 12 mg/kg, which exceeds the Food and Drugs Administration’s (FDA) safe and allowable levels.
According to their research, rice grown in Taiwan and China contain the highest amounts of lead. However, those two countries weren’t the only offenders—rice that was grown in Bhutan, Italy, Thailand, Czech Republic and India also contained dangerously high levels of this unsafe brain toxin. These worrisome findings were presented at an American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans on April 10th.
Lead is especially harmful to infants and young children, and it can halt intellectual development, delay growth, and lead to a wide range of issues such as learning problems, inattentiveness, impulsiveness, aggressiveness and irritability. In fact, lead is such a powerful brain toxin that high levels can even cause kidney damage, permanent brain damage and death in infants and young children. This is particularly worrisome, since some of the highest levels of lead are actually found in baby food. “For infants and children, the daily exposure levels from eating the rice products analyzed in this study would be 30-60 times higher than the FDA’s provisional total tolerable intake (PTTI) levels,” states Tongesayi . Asians tend to include particularly high amounts of rice in their diets, which means that Asian infants and children are exposed to a whopping 60-120 times more lead than the safe upper limit.
While you may feel safe on North American soil, it’s a false sense of security. The amount of imported rice in the diets of Americans is growing every year, and American consumption of imported rice products has nearly doubled since 1999. According to Tongesayi, adults who include imported rice in their diets are inadvertently exposing themselves to dangerously high levels of this toxin; levels that are about 20-40 times higher than the FDA’s total tolerable intake levels.
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Even more chilling is the fact that, even if you stop purchasing imported rice, it still doesn’t guarantee that you will be able to avoid this toxin. Rice is found in a variety of products including beer, wine, cereal, crackers, rice milk and other processed foods that don’t always label where their rice is sourced from. Even worse, lead isn’t the only toxin that is found in rice—rice is often grown with toxic pesticides and herbicides, and several studies have found high levels of inorganic arsenic in rice. Arsenic is another brain toxin that is particularly harmful to small children, and it may increase the risk for cancer. Until stronger regulations are implemented, consumers are advised to find out where their rice is coming from and to limit their consumption if they do not know what the source is.