Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Arsenic in rice and other foods

If you haven't heard about the recent Consumer Report testing for arsenic in rice, then you better take a look.  It comes shortly after headlines were made regarding arsenic in apple juice.  Yes, it is concerning but I'm getting accustomed to discovering bad news about our modern food chain.

Whats the big deal about arsenic?
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) ranks arsenic as their #1 priority, above lead and pcb's, on the ATSDR 2011 Substance Priority List.  And the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) ranks inorganic arsenic as a Group 1 carcinogen.  According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, "Non-cancer effects can include thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting; diarrhea; numbness in hands and feet; partial paralysis; and blindness. Arsenic has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver, and prostate."  The EPA set a standard of 10 parts per billion for public drinking water.

Where does the arsenic in rice come from?
Arsenic is a natural mineral existing in the air and soil that never goes away, only changes form (organic and inorganic arsenic).  It is naturally a result of weathering of arsenic-containing minerals in the earth.  However, it is currently concentrated on fields used for farming rice and other produce due to arsenic residues and ingredients in insecticides, animal feed, and poultry waste fertilizer.  This is a problem started just in the last century that still continues.

Below are are some takeaways from the report, but you truly need to read the Consumer Reports article to get the details and it is worth the few minutes it will take. 
  • Per serving, arsenic levels in rice are in the tens of parts per billion.
  • Arsenic found in brown rice is higher than that in white rice within the same brand.
  • Organic rice has no better arsenic level that conventional rice.
  • Rice grown in the Southeast has higher levels of arsenic due to the history of pesticides used by cotton growers.
  • Many sources for arsenic exist in our diet besides rice.  According to Consumer Reports, "a 2009-10 study from the EPA estimated that rice contributes 17 percent of dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic, which would put it in third place, behind fruits and fruit juices at 18 percent, and vegetables at 24 percent."
  • In addition, they report "According to federal data, some infants eat up to two to three servings of rice cereal a day. Eating rice cereal at that rate, with the highest level of inorganic arsenic we found in our tests, could result in a risk of cancer twice our acceptable level."
Go ahead and read the article if you haven't already.

What are some changes we can make?
  • Follow the serving guidelines when meal planning. This will be especially difficult for those people eating more rice due to a gluten-free diet.
  • Talk to your pediatrician about the type of baby cereal they recommend.
  • Rinse your rice and use more water when cooking.
  • Choose cereals without crispy rice (bummer!).  This is a great time to start having fun with breakfast like making refrigerator oatmeal!!!   More on that later.
  • Substitute quinoa, a super healthy rice like grain!  My friend, Debra, used it in a broccoli cheese casserole from Pinterest and it worked great!
  • Support the Consumers Union as they "urge the FDA to set standards for arsenic in food, to prohibit the use of arsenic-containing drugs in livestock and poultry, and to limit the arsenic allowable in manure used on rice fields."
Let me know your thoughts and ideas.  I'd love to know sources for rice with lower levels that are not grown in the southeast.  Anyone know how?
Have you read the article yet?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Homemade Baby Wipes

I started making baby wipes a few months ago after a friend, Jenny, posted on Facebook how easy it was.  She was right!  Not only do I avoid the dangerous chemicals and save money; but now I also don't have to pack up the three kids when I run out of wipes.  This was a big deal over the summer!

You probably have the time and materials to do this right now because it is that fast and easy.  The hardest step is finding a container.  It needs to fit a half lengthwise roll of paper towels and have a lid so that it opens on the top.  I use my Grandma's old Tupperware container but I just made a batch for my talented friend over at Sing All You Want using a Sterilite container found at Target.

I modified a recipe at to make it even safer. Common baby oil has "fragrance" (bad, bad stuff) so I use olive oil. If the yellow color bothers you then any healthy oil would work. The oil adds softness and glide. I also reduced the amount of baby wash from 2T because I thought it was a bit sudsy and unnecessary.

Here is what you need:
  • Round or square container with a lid
  • 1 paper towel roll - I prefer Select-A-Size
  • 2 cups cooled, boiled water
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons baby wash
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil

1. Cut the paper towel roll in half with a serrated knife and remove cardboard.
2. Combine water, baby wash and oil in container and shake to disperse the oil.
3. Add one half of the paper towel roll, cut side down so that it absorbs the liquid.
4. Close the lid and flip over to finish the absorption.
5. Wipe some tushies!

I hope you give it a try and let me know! I wish I had long ago.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Here it goes...

I'd like to thank my friends - especially Chasing Mermaids - for encouraging me in this blogging endeavor.  My goal is to share what I'm discovering about health and other topics and learn new things from others.  That means I hope you will comment on what you know and teach me. Yes, I'm talking to you!  Everyday I think of a new topic I could blog about and I'm hoping to make that happen.

What motivated me to finally decide on a blog name and register yesterday was the latest email from Environmental Working Group.  Their 2012 Guide to Healthy Cleaning is a fabulous database rating over 2000 cleaning products.  Of course my first reaction when I found this was to click on Dishwashing and see what was rated A and F.  I recently started making my own dishwashing detergent (more on that later) but I have used Seventh Generation, rated A, and Cascade powder, rated F.  And it lists the product ingredients along with the health concerns.  The thought of washing dishes in DNA damaging, cancer causing chemicals makes me cringe.  I hope you will look at your product ratings and consider making healthier substitutions for your family.