Arsenic in Apple Juice?
The FDA has finally proposed a limit to the amount of arsenic that is allowed in apple juice. The new allowable limit for arsenic in apple juice will be 10 parts per billion (ppd), the same amount that is allowed in drinking water.
Why the new regulation?
It's long been known that higher doses of arsenic are considered poisons. (Remember the play “Arsenic and Old Lace?”) They have toxic effects on normal cellular function, and there is increasing evidence that even relatively low levels of inorganic arsenic (as low as 150 ppd) can cause cancer and hamper the immune system.
Aren’t there small amounts of arsenic in apple seeds?
It is easy to confuse arsenic with cyanide. Apple seeds have trace amounts of cyanide not arsenic.
Where does the arsenic come from?
Because arsenic is a naturally occurring element (it has its own space on the periodic table), it naturally occurs in soil & rock and can seep into deep underground water sources. Naturally occurring arsenic usually does not cause ground water concentrations to become high, but it can.
Arsenic has been used in the mining process, so groundwater near mines is sometimes contaminated.
Because inorganic arsenic is toxic to insects, bacteria, and fungi, it was used as a wood preserve. Although it was officially banned for this purpose in the U.S. and European Union in 2004, there are still countries that use it.
This brings us back to the apples. Until the 1970s, inorganic arsenic containing compounds were used in various agricultural insecticides. Although typically no longer used in insecticides in the US or EU, there is concern that there may still be contamination at the agricultural sites that used to use it. There are also concerns that apples or juice imported from other, less regulated, countries may have it.
The good news is that, in 2011, the FDA tested 94 samples of juices available in the US, and all of them had levels well below the 10 ppb of inorganic arsenic.
Right now, our juice supply appears to be safe, but it appears the FDA is striving for it to be even safer in the future.
Dr. Jeff M.D.