Arsenic is a poison that can contaminate drinking water. The federal government sets limits on how much is allowed in bottled and municipal water. But it puts no limits on arsenic in juice.
Consumer Reports just tested 28 apple and grape juices purchased in the New York metropolitan area and found worrisome levels of arsenic in a number of samples. That's a concern — considering how much fruit juice many children drink.
Of the 88 samples analyzed, 10 percent had arsenic levels that exceeded federal standards for bottled and municipal water. The majority of the arsenic detected was the inorganic form — a known carcinogen linked to skin, bladder, and lung cancer. And in 12 of the juices tested, at least one sample contained lead levels that exceeded standards for bottled water.
Because the test was limited, Consumer Reports can't draw any conclusions about any particular type or brand of juice. But the higher levels of arsenic and lead are troubling because many children drink a lot of juice and their small body size makes them particularly vulnerable. One likely source of the contamination is pesticides that were used in agriculture and contained arsenic. Even though most are now banned, the arsenic can remain in the soil.
Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, is urging the Food and Drug Administration to set standards for juice. Consumer Reports recommends lead limits of 5 parts per billion, the current standard for bottled water, or even lower. The arsenic recommendation is 3 parts per billion. Consumer Reports says that's attainable because 41 percent of the samples tested met both those levels.
The Juice Products Association told Consumer Reports: "We are committed to providing nutritious and safe fruit juices … and will comply with limits" established by the Food and Drug Administration.
The Food and Drug Administration told Consumer Reports that it was reviewing its own data to see whether it should set guidelines for juice. It turns out the FDA has found arsenic in apple juice at even higher levels than what Consumer Reports' tests found.
For now, Consumer Reports says the best advice for parents is to limit how much juice your children drink.
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