Arsenic. Just the name evokes a feeling of dread. Who would want some of that stuff in your food? Arsenic is a chemical naturally present and also caused by human activity. Human activity includes mining and smelting ores which then seeps into water. Many pesticides also contain arsenic.

A significant part of this transfers to your food through the water. Whether it originates in pesticides or in the water used to grow, harvest or treat your food, it manages to seep in. Arsenic accumulates in keratin which is what your toenails are made from. Therefore to be tested for high levels of arsenic, your toenails are analysed. Arsenic is a poison at the appropriate dosage. Low levels don’t immediately cause harm but depending on how much there is, it can lead to long-term lung, kidney and skin damage. It can also cause bladder cancer. It is in your interest to know if what you are ingesting has acceptable levels of arsenic.

There are certain foods that have a tendency toward high levels. Among these rice has the greatest risk. This is because rice has a greater capacity to absorb arsenic from water. Other foods include dark fish (such as tuna and salmon) Brussel sprouts, kale and cauliflower and chicken and other poultry. Beer and wine have also been known to contain arsenic. This is possibly due to the water used to make them. However, many manufacturers filter the arsenic so you need to be careful before you discard all beer and wine.

Cooking your food reduces the arsenic. Especially with rice but also with other food types, soaking and then discarding the water tends to reduce the arsenic. Also cooking the food at high temperatures reduces arsenic. Diluting foods with high water content also helps you achieve the same result. The key is to know, understand and then take effective steps to reduce your risks.


Ritesh is a born again health enthusiast and holds a Certificate in Physiology from Harvard Medical School and a Certificate in Nutrition from Tufts University.