Arsenic - a little history
Arsenic was widely used as a medicine in the 19th and 20th centuries. In fact, the spread of mass-produced and commercially distributed medicines and poisons (sometimes the same thing), coincided with a rise in murders and suicides involving those substances and the development of forensic toxicology.
There are two kinds of arsenic - organic and inorganic.
Organic arsenic occurs naturally, and there is no evidence of harm to human health.
Inorganic arsenic, on the other hand, is the result of pesticides, fertilizers and sewage sludge used on crops. Water runoff from contaminated fields impacts drinking water in the US, and can even affect organic crops. It is a heavy metal that can cause health problems - although the good news is that it leaves the body within a few days of exposure and doesn't build up.
Corn Syrup - a reminder
Although it has been known for years that corn syrup contains mercury, nobody ever made much fuss over its use in baby formula, or asked companies to change their ingredients.
It's quite brilliant as a marketing coup - is the spectre of possible arsenic contamination sufficient to make customers run right back into the arms of corn syrup formulas laced with mercury? Time will tell.
Mom vs Monsanto
Hats off to this mother of three who got fed up and took charge. Thirteen years ago, Sofía Gatica's newborn died of kidney failure after being exposed to pesticides (Roundup by Monsanto) in the womb. After the despair came anger, then a fierce determination to protect the children in her community and beyond.
Today, she's one of six grassroots leaders from around the world receiving the Goldman Environmental Prize, in recognition of her courageous — and successful — efforts.
More . . .
The Plan to Ban
According to an April 9th, 2012 Shanghai Daily article, the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China - the world's major exporter of food dyes - proposes banning 38 additives including 17 artificial food dyes. They say food additives should be both safe and necessary - and that these are neither. More . . . (http://tinyurl.com/china-dyes)
The ironic thing is that since China is the world's major producer of food dyes, and they are being phased out in Europe, I guess most of it will end up here, in the US.
Research on arsenic
in baby formula
In early February of this year, Professor Brian Jackson of Dartmouth College published a study of 15 commercial baby formulas in which he reported that although levels of arsenic were generally low, they were of potential concern because they contained primarily the inorganic type of arsenic.
A few weeks later, he published a second study claiming that an organic brand of baby formula, which uses organic brown rice syrup rather than corn syrup, contains much higher levels of arsenic. Although Jackson did not name names, the only company that uses organic brown rice syrup in their formula is Nature's One. Another organic formula company, Earth's Best, uses "Organic Glucose Syrup Solids" which is just another name for corn syrup solids - the carbohydrate source used in all lactose free and soy formulas (except for Nature's One), and some dairy formulas manufactured in the US.
This study, published without first notifying Nature's One, has been picked up by many websites and news sources with much fanfare. You can see the entire study here but it's not an easy read since it is very technical.
Nature's One replies
Nature's One said its California-based supplier of the organic brown rice syrup used the independent FDA-approved laboratory, Applied Speciation, to test arsenic levels in their organic brown rice syrup. This lab found that formula products manufactured by Nature's One, Inc., fall significantly below all world standards for rice-based foods fed to infants and children. In fact, "all Baby's Only Organic® formulas are 58.5% to 73.5% below the CODEX recommended inorganic arsenic limits in rice-based foods for infants (up to 12 months) and young children (12 to 36 months) of 0.2 mg/kg."
Since there are currently no U.S. standards for rice, the world trade turns to the arsenic guidelines offered by the CODEX Committee on Contaminants in Food.
According to Nature's One, "One has to ask, why wouldn't Jackson use the same testing methodology for Baby's Only Organic® formulas as he did for the other 15 leading infant formula brands? Nature's One® submitted its products to an independent FDA approved laboratory where scientific experts in arsenic testing utilized the most advanced technology and methodologies. "
Moreover, they say, "The Dartmouth study is flawed in that it used rice flour as its quality control material (consisting of less than 1 gram of sugar) compared to the sugar content (31 grams) of organic brown rice syrup. This is a significant methodological error since leading scientific experts on arsenic testing have discovered that carbon atoms from sugar create "false-positives" for arsenic testing. Perhaps this is one reason why the organic brown rice Dartmouth study shows recovery rates for total arsenic in many of the foods studied as being over 100%. How can one recover more than 100% of an element? This begs the question about the accuracy and reliability of the testing used by Jackson."
Nature's One wants parents to know that "As an organic manufacturer, Nature's One's primary concern is the amount of environmental chemicals ingested by infants, toddlers and children. Parents can rest assured that Nature's One® will test arsenic levels for every lot of organic brown rice syrup and organic rice oligodextrin prior to production."
And then there's corn syrup ... oops - and autism!
A new study by Renee Dufault, just published in Clinical Epigenetics, discusses the reasons why a particular gene called PON1 seems to be associated with autism in the US but not in Italy.
The PON1 (paraoxonase) gene is responsible for inactivating organophosphate pesticides in humans.
Others (D'Amelio 2005) felt that the reason this gene is strongly connected to autism in children - but only in the US - is that in the US families use more of these pesticides in their homes than do people in Italy.
Dufault found that it is not so simple.
US Department of Agriculture scientists warn that when dietary intake of
magnesium is low, but intake of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is high, it leads to lower calcium and phosphorus levels. This is unfortunate because many Americans get too little magnesium, and most of them also consume a high fructose diet.
Too little calcium, magnesium, and zinc - or losses because of consumption of HFCS - may increase the toxic effects of lead on the cognitive and behavioral development in children. As if that were not enough, it may also damage human serum paraoxonase-1 (PON1) gene expression. PON1 itself is an enzyme made in the liver, and is responsible for detoxifying and removing organophosphate pesticides. The making of PON1 is impaired in many children with autism or ADHD, making them more susceptible to the toxic effects of organophosphate pesticide residues on food. The pesticide residues, in turn, further damage the child's ability to handle toxins. Elimination of heavy metals requires the expression of the metallothionein (MT) gene. With zinc loss and copper gain from the consumption of HFCS, this gene also becomes unable to do its job.
A comparison of
autism prevalence between the US and Italy suggests the
increase in autism in the US is not related to mercury exposure from fish, coal-fired power
plants, thimerosal, or dental amalgam - which are the same in both countries - but instead to the consumption of HFCS. While rarely eaten in Italy, HFCS is consumed to excess in the US, leading to loss of zinc, calcium, and phosphorous, and copper gain, and is a potential source of inorganic mercury exposure itself.
See the study.