One of the most popular alcoholic beverages in the world, and one that is perceived as a “healthier” (because it is rich in antioxidants) option compared to other alcoholic beverages, is coming under scrutiny in California.
More than two dozen vintners are facing a lawsuit claiming that their wines contain “dangerously high levels ofinorganic arsenic.”
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According to the class action lawsuit that was filed on March 19th, drinkers of some California wine have become “guinea pigs” of arsenic exposure, “thanks to the negligent and misleading actions of dozens of California wineries. ”
A total of 1,300 bottles of wine were tested, and nearly one-quarter had arsenic levels that were above the EPA’s maximum arsenic level for drinking water, which is 10 parts per billion (ppb).
It’s strange how some known poisons are approved as safe to digest at certain levels; you would think that poison accumulation in the body at any level, especially over long periods of time, would not be safe at all.
The person who studied and analyzed these wines is David Hicks, owner of BeverageGrades, a lab that analyzes wine. He started this venture after 15 years in the wine distribution business, so he definitely knows a thing or two about it. He said that what he found shocked him.
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He told CBS news that:
“The lower the price of wine on a per-liter basis, the higher the amount of arsenic. There are some very, very high levels of arsenic” in the wine that he tested.
It’s important to mention that the wine industry has responded. Most of the defendants have said that their wine is completely safe to drink, while others have refused to comment on the matter.
The Wine Institute, a California trade group that called the claims “false and misleading,” (source) had this to say:
“We are concerned that the irresponsible publicity campaign by the litigating party could scare the public into thinking that wine is not safe to consume, which is patently untrue.” (source)
The group consists of 1,000 California wineries, including 10 of the defendants.
The industry has also pointed to the idea that the highest level of arsenic found is half the level of arsenic allowed in Canada’s wine.
What Are The Health Risks Of Inorganic Arsenic?
“Arsenic occurs naturally in the earth and is released into rocks, soil, water, and air. It also gets into soil as a result of industrial pollution and arsenic-based pesticides that have been applied to soil. There are two primary types, inorganic, which is found in contaminated water and also released through industry and in building products (such as pressure-treated wood) and organic.”
The effects of arsenic exposure on human health, especially inorganic arsenic exposure, can vary depending on route of exposure. For ingestion, adverse effects are most often manifested as skin discolouration and lesions and in the gastrointestinal tract (nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain). Ingestion has also been linked to cancer of the skin, bladder, liver and lung. Inhalation exposure has been linked to an increased incidence of irritation of mucous membranes and lung cancer. Inorganic arsenic is classified as a known human carcinogen by the FDA.
According to the EPA.
“Chronic inorganic arsenic exposure is known to be associated with adverse health effects on several systems of the body, but is most known for causing specific types of skin lesions (sores, hyperpigmentation, and other lesions) and increased risks of cancer of the lungs and skin.”
The EPA also outlines other impacts of inorganic arsenic ingestion, which include:
- Kidney failure
- Low blood pressure
- Skin Lesions
- Increased risk of diabetes
Food is actually the largest source of arsenic exposure for humans.
By Arjun Walia