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Arsenic and apple juice

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  July 15, 2013 06:37 AM

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glass of apple juice.jpgApple juice shouldn't have more arsenic than is allowed in drinking water. That's what the Food and Drug Association said this week, and it makes abundant sense. 

Arsenic is a really common chemical that is found almost everywhere in the environment. Some of it is found naturally, but some of it is there because of stuff we've done, like using pesticides that contain arsenic (which has lead to high levels in lots of rice--check out my post on that). There are two kinds, organic and inorganic. It's the inorganic kind that leads to health problems. Very high levels can kill you, but those sort of exposures are uncommon. Exposures to smaller amounts can damage the brain, nerves, blood, blood vessels, heart and skin--and can cause birth defects and cancer. Not the kind of stuff you want your kid to be drinking.

Here's the good news: the vast majority of apple juice out there doesn't. But when Consumer Reports ran some tests on various different brands of apple juice, they found that some of them had levels that were unsafe. 

At the time, there were no federal regulations when it came to arsenic and apple juice. What the apple juice companies were doing may have been dangerous, but it wasn't breaking any rules. 

The FDA's ruling changes that. Now they have regulations that they can enforce, and if a company makes an apple juice with too much arsenic, they can do something about it.

The FDA did their own testing, too. They found that 95 percent of the apple juice samples they tested had less than 10 ppb (parts per billion) of total arsenic, and 100 percent were below 10 ppb for inorganic arsenic (the dangerous kind). That 10 ppb of inorganic arsenic is the limit for drinking water. 

So, despite all the hype about arsenic and apple juice, parents shouldn't be too worried. It's not a bad idea to check out the test results on the different brands, and choose one that scored well (although it's good to remember that the Consumer Reports folks found that different samples of the same brands had different results). But a cup of apple juice here and there is really unlikely to cause any problems for your child.

And a cup here and there is all they should be drinking anyway--the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting the amount of juice kids drink--or not giving them any at all. Drinking a lot of juice can make kids overweight. The dentists aren't wild about juice either, especially when kids carry it around in sippy cups--it increases the risk of cavities.

So give your kids water to drink. After all, there are regulations about the amount of arsenic allowed in that.

Is there something you'd like me to write about? Leave me a message on my Facebook page--and "like" the page for links to all my MD Mama blogs as well as my blogs on Thriving and Huffington Post. 

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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