The dreaded Miss Marple poison is back : Along with a myriad of other carcinogens and poisons, Arsenic is known to contaminate tap water, but concerns are mounting that its getting into fruit juices, especially children’s.

The host of the Dr. OZ show, Mehmet Oz, M.D., started the scandal, announcing that tests run by the show had found Arsenic exceeding 10 parts per billion (ppb) in apple juice.

There is no recommended safe level in foods, but the tap water level is 10 ppb. The Food and Drug Administration tried to calm shoppers about the safety of apple juice, stating that most arsenic in juices and other foods is of the organic type that is “essentially harmless”.

However, not satisfied with a few excuses, Consumer Reports conducted their own tests and found that 10 percent of apple and grape juice samples from five different brands had inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen.

Even more alarmingly, lead (Pb) was found in 25% of samples, at levels higher than the FDA recommended 5ppb for drinking water. Further data analysis shows that apple and grape juice constitute a major component of a human’s intake of lead and arsenic.

The problem is compounded further because children love to drink juice and parents consider it a healthy option.

The Consumer Reports “Parents Poll” pegged thirty five percent of children under five drinking more juice than pediatricians’ recommend.

The Consumer’s Union, the advocacy branch of Consumer Reports, has now issued an advice, urging the FDA to set safe levels for lead and arsenic in juices at 5ppb, but ideally lower than 3ppb.

Keeve Nachman, Ph.D., a risk scientist at the Center for a Livable Future and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, both at Johns Hopkins University, said :

“The current analysis suggests that these juices may be an important contributor to dietary arsenic exposure … It would be prudent to pursue measures to understand and limit young children’s exposures to arsenic in juice.”

Robert Wright, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of pediatrics and environmental health at Harvard University, who specializes in research on the effect of heavy-metals exposure in children, says that findings from our juice tests and database analysis concern him:

“Because of their small size, a child drinking a box of juice would consume a larger per-body-weight dose of arsenic than an adult drinking the exact same box of juice. Those brands with elevated arsenic should investigate the source and eliminate it.”

Arsenic has been notoriously used as a poison since ancient times and it’s commonly used to treat pine and other timber to prevent it from rotting. A fatal poisoning would require a single dose of inorganic arsenic about the weight of a postage stamp. But chronic toxicity can result from long-term exposure to much lower levels in food, and even to water that meets the 10-ppb drinking-water limit.

A 2004 study of children in Bangladesh suggested diminished intelligence based on test scores in children exposed to arsenic in drinking water at levels above 5 ppb, says study author Joseph Graziano, Ph.D., a professor of environmental health sciences and pharmacology at Columbia University. He’s now conducting similar research with children living in New Hampshire and Maine, where arsenic levels of 10 to 100 ppb are commonly found in well water, to determine whether better nutrition in the United States affects the results.

Written by Rupert Shepherd