Arsenic levels in wine exceed what’s allowed in drinking water

Oct. 7, 2015

Samples ranged from 10 to 76 parts per billion of arsenic, with an average of 24 parts per billion.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Oct. 5, 2015 — Many U.S. wines contain high levels of arsenic, but this is unlikely to pose a threat to health, new research suggests.

A University of Washington study analyzed arsenic levels in red wines produced in California, Washington, New York and Oregon.

Professor Denise Wilson found that levels of the toxic substance exceeded the maximum permitted in drinking water in 64 of the 65 wines tested, with some of them well above this limit.

Samples ranged from 10 to 76 parts per billion of arsenic, with an average of 24 parts per billion. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows drinking water to contain no more than 10 parts per billion.

However, a companion study concluded that the likely health risks from arsenic in wine depend on how many other foods and beverages known to be high in arsenic an individual person consumes, such as apple juice, rice or cereal bars.

“Unless you are a heavy drinker consuming wine with really high concentrations of arsenic, of which there are only a few, there’s little health threat if that’s the only source of arsenic in your diet,” Wilson explained in the release.

“But consumers need to look at their diets as a whole. If you are eating a lot of contaminated rice, organic brown rice syrup, seafood, wine, apple juice — all those heavy contributors to arsenic poisoning — you should be concerned, especially pregnant women, kids and the elderly.”

Responding to the studies, the California wine industry body Wine Institute questioned the data used and stressed that all wines sold in the United States are “completely safe.”

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other government agencies in the U.S., Canada and Europe regularly test wines for harmful compounds including arsenic to ensure that all wine is safe to consume,” the trade body said in the release.

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