Arsenic in rice: A human health emergency in South and South-East Asia

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Rice: Production, Consumption and Health Benefits, 2012, pp. 37 - 63
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Rice is the staple food for the people of South (S) and South-East (SE) Asian countries, where a large area has been reported to be contaminated with high level of arsenic from geogenic source, especially in Bangladesh and West Bengal (India). Arsenic contaminated groundwater has not only been used for drinking purpose but has also widely been used in irrigation, especially for rice cultivation during dry season. A number of recent studies reveal that extensive use of contaminated groundwater for irrigation has resulted in the deposition of high level arsenic in topsoil which, together with its content in irrigation water, may increase arsenic uptake in rice grain. Thus, arsenic in irrigation water poses a serious threat to the sustainable rice ferming in this region. Arsenic has also been reported in cooked rice, which is increased for cooking with contaminated water. Inorganic arsenic is the main species of S and SE Asian rice (80 to 91% of the total arsenic) while United States (US) rice contains predominantly organic arsenic. The US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have classified inorganic arsenic as a group 'A' human carcinogen. It has been predicted that eating more than 115 g of high-arsenic-containing rice could reach or surpass the drinking water standard for an adult. The people of Bangladesh and West Bengal (India), the arsenic hot spots in the world, eat an average of 450 g rice per day. Therefore, dietary intake of arsenic from rice is supposed to be a health disaster for the population of S and SE Asian countries. © 2012 by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
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