– Near-zero levels of arsenic found to significantly impair intelligence and reasoning of U.S. schoolchildren (Natural News, April 22, 2014):
As Natural News readers and fans already know, we’re hot on the trail pinpointing sources of heavy metals and understanding how they impair our physical and mental health. Now a groundbreaking study conducted in the United States on arsenic in drinking water has found something truly astounding: a mere 5 parts per billion (.005 ppm) of arsenic caused “reductions in Full Scale, Working Memory, Perceptual Reasoning and Verbal Comprehension scores” in children.(1)
The research was led by Joseph Graziano, PhD, professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. It involved 272 children from three school districts in Maine.
Graziano summarized the findings by explaining “aspects of performance intelligence, particularly perceptual reasoning and working memory, are impacted by exposure to arsenic in drinking water.”
He goes on to say, “we also observed a steep drop in intelligence scores in the very low range of water arsenic concentrations.”
This study, by the way, also complete demolishes the myth that small quantities of heavy metals can’t possibly be harmful “because they are so small.” In this study, we’re talking about a concentration of just 5 parts per billion in drinking water — an amount so tiny that it’s only 1/100th the level of lead we’ve found in some protein products. If just 5 parts per billion can impair learning, reasoning and brain function, then obviously 500 parts per billion (.5 ppm) is even worse.
We’ve already documented, by the way, 500 parts per billion of total arsenic in some rice protein products as shown here. We’ve also found 2883 ppb (2.883 ppm) of total arsenic in barley grass powder.
Lead and mercury also damage brain function
We already know that the heavy metals lead and mercury cause significant, measurable damage to brain function. Mercury in fish, for example, causes lowered IQs, learning disabilities and impaired cognitive function (2).
Lead also impairs the learning of children and impairs healthy brain function. In the Natural News Forensic Food Lab, I’ve conducted pioneering research on the lead found in certified organic rice protein supplements, and we’ve recently found very high levels of toxic mercury in pet treats.
The levels we’re documenting are in many cases hundreds of times larger than the 5 ppb of arsenic covered in this study. I had no idea arsenic could affect brain function at just 5 ppb (.005 ppm) in drinking water.
The EPA currently limits arsenic levels in public drinking water to 10 ppb. This limit is based on “total arsenic” including both organic arsenic and inorganic arsenic. Where does all this arsenic come from? According to the EPA (3):
Approximately 90 percent of industrial arsenic in the U.S. is currently used as a wood preservative, but arsenic is also used in paints, dyes, metals, drugs, soaps and semi-conductors. High arsenic levels can also come from certain fertilizers and animal feeding operations. Industry practices such as copper smelting, mining and coal burning also contribute to arsenic in our environment.
FDA has no limit on arsenic in foods
Even though the EPA has a limit of 10 ppb of arsenic in drinking water, the FDA has no limit on arsenic in foods, superfoods or supplements. To many Americans, this is bewildering: Why would the FDA have no limit on toxic heavy metals in the U.S. food supply?
I have personally tested many seaweeds that contain over 50 ppm of arsenic — that’s over 10,000 times the EPA’s arsenic limit in drinking water. For example, as you can see on this lab results page, one brand of Kombu Flakes has over 100 ppm total arsenic! (Wakame from New Zealand contained almost zero arsenic, by the way…)
Of course, nobody is eating seaweed at the same quantities they are drinking water, and much of the arsenic in seaweed is probably organic arsenic (which isn’t harmful like inorganic arsenic). Even then, the fact that popular seaweeds may contain 10,000 times the level of total arsenic necessary to significantly decrease cognitive function in children is quite alarming. Clearly this area needs more research to answer questions like:
• What is the impact of arsenic in adult brain function? Does too much arsenic lower your IQ?
• How much total arsenic were these children actually drinking over a month or a year?
• What is the source of the arsenic in the well water? Is this arsenic coming from ancient rock, or is this an industrial contaminant that’s leaking into water aquifers?
• What is the combined effect of being exposed to low levels of arsenic, mercury and lead all at the same time?
• If only 5 ppb of arsenic caused these significant cognitive problems, then is there ANY safe level of arsenic to consume?
• Why won’t the USDA limit the level of arsenic found in certified organic foods?