A recently published study by researchers at the University of Manchester and CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology in Kolkata has shown that high levels of arsenic in rice are associated with genetic damage in humans.
The researchers were able to measure chromosomal damage by the frequency of ‘micronuclei’ in urothelial cells. They found that people with a rice-based diet in West Bengal had higher frequencies of micronuclei when arsenic levels in rice exceeded 0.2 mg/kg. Increased numbers of micronuclei have been shown to be associated with a raised cancer risk.
The authors of the report say that their findings raise considerable concerns about the possible health effects of a eating arsenic contaminated rice as a staple food, especially among people with a poor nutritional status. High concentrations of arsenic have been found in rice in several rice growing areas and it is possible that the problem could affect hundreds of millions of people. Possible effects on people in countries where rice is eaten, but is not a staple food, also need to be determined by further research.
The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports and can be found here.