I’m going to guess that unless you’re sick or under the age of four, you don’t frequently guzzle large amounts of bottled apple and grape juice. Nonetheless, a new study from Consumer Reports found that 10% of the juices they tested had arsenic levels that exceed what’s allowed in water by the FDA. Consumer Reports and other doctors are urging that the FDA set limits on arsenic, warning of the chronic effects of exposure—especially in children.
The study looked at 88 juice samples from common household brands like Minute Maid, Welch’s and Tropicana. The levels of arsenic they found weren’t enough to cause imminent death, but the long-term health effects are scary, according to the researchers:
“What we’re talking about here is not acute affects,” Urvashi Rangan, director of safety and sustainability at Consumer Reports, told TODAY. “We’re talking about chronic effects. We’re talking about cancer risk. And so, the fact that 10 percent of our samples exceeded the drinking water standard underscores the need for a standard to be set in juices.”
Rangan and other health advocates like Dr. Mehmet Oz hope that the study will prompt the FDA to monitor and regulate arsenic exposure more carefully—like lead, small amounts can cause brain damage and increase cancer risk. And if it really is children and sick people who make up the biggest market for juice, then your chances of exposure go up the more vulnerable you are, too. (In fact, a past FDA report revealed that baby apple juice contained 87 parts per billion; the FDA limit in water is 10 ppb.)
So what’s the best way to steer clear in the meantime? Drink fresh juice, and go organic. While it’s not entirely clear why there is so much arsenic in the juice, a good guess is that insecticides have something to do with it; many common fruit tree insecticides contain low levels of arsenic, but if you opt for organically-farmed fruits and juices, you’re at least lowering your risk of exposure.