What is arsenic?
Arsenic is found everywhere on the Earth's crust in fair sized amounts, comparable to other toxic metals, at about 5 ppm. In seawater, there are 2 to 5 ppb, which accounts for the fact that many seafoods have more arsenic than the FDA limits (2.6 ppm) allow: mollusks, crustacea – prawns and shrimp – fish, fish roe, cod liver oil, herring, even freshwater fish, and most sea animals and plants. This arsenic is not toxic.
Arsenic is found in nature and in manmade products, such as pesticides. It is found in organic and inorganic forms. Since the element is readily taken up by plants, it is present in our food. Arsenic has been used in a variety of applications including as a pesticide, as a wood preservative and in the semiconductor industry. It exists in two forms: organic and inorganic.
What is the difference between organic and inorganic arsenic?
Atoms in arsenic bond to other elements to form molecules. If carbon is one of these elements, it is an organic molecule. Inorganic and organic are not terms used to indicate pesticide usage, or even human activity, but rather the other metals and elements they are bound to.
Inorganic and organic arsenic occur naturally in the environment, with inorganic forms being most abundant. Inorganic arsenic is associated with other metals in igneous and sedimentary rocks, and it also occurs in combination with many other elements, especially oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur. Organic arsenic contains carbon and hydrogen.
Isn’t all arsenic dangerous?
Organic arsenic is not toxic. Arsenic itself is rather quickly and efficiently metabolized through methylation in the liver, and then excreted through the urine: 50% to 70% of all ingested arsenic exits via that route. Literature accumulating since the turn of the 21st century indicates that feces, perspiration, and the sloughing of skin cells also serve as avenues of exit for arsenic. Hair and nails additionally serve as sequester points for the metal. Most tissues rapidly clear arsenic, except for skin, hair, and nails. Arsenic from fish and seafood does not even appear to be metabolized or bio-transformed, but instead is rapidly excreted unchanged in the urine within 48 hours of ingestion. Even in the case of the most dangerous, inorganic, trivalent arsenic, most is cleared from the body within two days, with final trace amounts finally exiting the body two weeks or more afterwards.
How does arsenic get into plants? Do all plants have arsenic?
Arsenic may be present in many plants due to its absorption through the soil and water. Some seafood has high levels of organic arsenic, so it might stand to reason that sea vegetables also have organic arsenic. This is the non-toxic form of arsenic.
Do organic foods have less arsenic than non-organic foods?
No. Arsenic is found naturally in soil and water, so regardless of the practices used there will be some presence of arsenic.
Does Vibrant Health test for arsenic in their products?
Yes. Vibrant Health has always tested its products for the presence of arsenic and other heavy metals. Rather than an overall arsenic level test we have updated our test to determine levels of organic and inorganic arsenic separately. By testing in this way we can keep levels of arsenic as low as possible, and make sure if it is present it’s primarily organic form.
“What does ppb mean?”
1 ppb = one part per billion, or 1µg (microgram or one millionth of a gram) of substance per liter of water. This is equivalent to one drop of water in a swimming pool, adding a pinch of salt to a 10-ton bag of potato chips or three seconds in a century.