Long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic in drinking water in Taiwan has caused the Blackfoot disease, in which the blood vessels in the lower limbs of affected persons were severely damaged, resulting eventually in progressive gangrene.

Arsenic exposure has caused other forms of blood vessel disease in the limbs in several other countries.

According to a review of arsenic poisoning and its effect on human health by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, soluble inorganic arsenic can have immediate toxic effects (the inorganic form being more toxic than the organic).

This means that the ingestion of a one-time heavy load can lead to acute gastrointestinal symptoms such as severe vomiting, disturbances of the blood and circulation, damage to the nervous system, hallucinations, psychosis and eventually death.

When not deadly, it may reduce blood cells production, break up red blood cells in the circulation, enlarge the liver (causing chronic hepatitis or hepatic cirrhosis), colour the skin (melanosis, hyperkeratosis, desquamation and eventually carcinoma), produce tingling and loss of sensation in the limbs and cause brain damage.

It can present with non-specific symptoms, which can be present in many other diseases, such as palpitations, fatigue, headache, dizziness, insomnia, weakness, nightmares, numbness in the extremities and anaemia

There is strong evidence supporting arsenic playing a part in elevated blood pressure, heart attacks and another circulatory disease. It may also be implicated in diabetes, infertility, stroke and cancers, especially that of the skin, lungs, bladder, kidneys and long-term neurological effects.

In the lungs, asthmatic bronchitis (a cough, expectoration, breathlessness, and restrictive asthma) are common symptoms in long-term insidious exposure. Symptoms of the clinical phase are associated with different complications as the other organs like lungs, liver, muscles, eyes, vessels are affected.

Clinical symptoms are associated with biochemical evidence of organ dysfunction and high concentrations of arsenic in different organs involved. Liver enlargement (hepatomegaly), spleen enlargement (splenomegaly) and fluid in the abdomen (ascites) are seen in several cases. Researchers have also shown that arsenic causes inhibition of DNA repair

Arsenic poisoning in rice

While white rice, compared to the brown variety, is lower in mercury and arsenic, it carries its own hidden danger – talc. White rice and any polished rice may contain large amounts of residual talc. This is because white rice processing uses talc for polishing.Click for more info on Arsenic

Thus, it is wise to thoroughly rinse all rice repeatedly before cooking, even organic white rice! The risks from talc are somewhat debated, but it is known to possibly contain asbestos. While cosmetic grade talc is said to be asbestos free, we find no confirmation that talc used in rice polishing meets some sort of independent, rigorous standard that includes testing for asbestos. Talc has also been implicated in ovarian cancer.

Strategies for avoiding arsenic

There is no need to stop eating rice. You just need to know how to source it safely.First and foremost, eat only organic rice if at all possible, especially if you are gluten free! While the arsenic in rice that is organically grown may not necessarily be lower, it will have far less of other dangerous, health damaging chemical residues. Toxicity is frequently cumulative and sometimes synergistic.

Soak rice to reduce arsenic poisoning

A second very important step is to soak rice before cooking. The traditional method of soaking rice in six parts water to one part rice discarding the soaking liquid, rinse the rice thoroughly and then cooking in fresh water significantly reduces arsenic levels. Studies show that overnight soaking can remove up to 80 per cent of the arsenic, though more research is needed about how easily different rice varieties give up their arsenic.

Skip the non-organic processed rice

Stop buying, eating or feeding your family processed rice or rice containing pseudo-foods. Such foods would include popular items like packaged and processed rice cereals, rice cakes and so many others. These foods are loaded with arsenic according to testing by Consumer Reports.

Organic varieties are fine as an occasional treat, although there are many better alternatives made with other gluten free grains.

Buy rice from companies that test for arsenic

Some brands of rice regularly test for arsenic. Others don’t. Patronising these quality brands is a good use of food dollars.Choose rice grown in California, India, Thailand and other regions with less arsenic contamination. Studies consistently show that rice grown in certain parts of the world are higher in arsenic than others. The main reason for this appears to be the fact that pesticides containing arsenic were commonly used in cotton fields back in the day and that very same arsenic is still in the soil of those same fields. And, it turns out that’s where much of the rice from the US is now grown. For this reason, it would be a good idea to avoid rice grown in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Missouri. Instead, look for rice from California, India, Thailand and maybe Nigeria. Not much can be said for food testing in our part of the world.

Expunge what has been accumulated

This you can achieve at a good detox centre, where your body would be properly rid of arsenic and other heavy metals. You should be put through regular body detox treatments, hydrotherapy baths, colon cleansing, lymphatic drainage function enhancement, amongst other cleansing and rejuvenating therapies. Medications and supplements that enhance chelation and mopping up of heavy metals would also be instituted.

In conclusion, rice has all its benefits but at the expense of being exposed to so much poison. So, while we are not saying you should stop eating rice, it is wise to eat it less of it and the right kind of it. Then, ensure a variety of healthy grains in a balanced diet and detox whatever accumulated toxins are present already.