|BETHESDA, Maryland, January 20, 2004 (ENS) - People who
eat chicken may be taking in greater amounts of arsenic than anyone
has previously thought. Arsenic concentrations in young chickens are
three times greater than in other meat and poultry products, U.S.
government scientists report in the January issue of "Environmental
Arsenic is an approved animal dietary supplement and is found in
specifically approved drugs added to poultry and other animal feeds.
It is fed to broiler chickens in the form of Roxarsone (4-hydroxy-3-nitrophenyl
arsonic acid) to control intestinal parasites.
Epidemiologist Tamar Lasky of the National Institute of Child Health
and Development, led the study, working with a team that included
scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety
and Inspection Service Office of Public Health and Science.
At average levels of chicken consumption — 2 ounces a day,
or the equivalent of a third to half of a boneless chicken breast
— people ingest about 3.6 to 5.2 micrograms of inorganic arsenic,
the most toxic form of the element.
People who eat an average of 2.1 ounces a day of chicken, about
half a chicken breast, will take in 3.62 to 5.24 micrograms of inorganic
arsenic per day, Lasky and her team calculate.
About one percent of the U.S. population eats as much as 10 times
that amount of chicken, and takes in a proportionately larger amount
of arsenic, the scientists found.
Bladder, respiratory and skin cancers may result from a daily intake
of 10 to 40 micrograms of arsenic.
A joint expert committee from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization
and the World Health Organization has determined that a tolerable
daily intake of inorganic arsenic to be two micrograms per kilogram
(2.2 pounds) of body weight per day.
People can also be exposed to arsenic in drinking water, or by
breathing air containing dust or smoke from burning arsenic treated
wood, but chicken consumption can make up a "sizable proportion
of the tolerable daily intake," Lasky and her team report.
More study is needed to find out exactly how the arsenic consumed
in chicken is metabolized in the human body. The scientists say
that the chemical forms of arsenic found in chicken muscle "have
not been reported in the literature."
It would be helpful to have more detailed laboratory information
about the forms of inorganic and organic arsenic remaining in chicken
muscle, they write, as well as the effects of cooking on these forms,
and the metabolism of the ingested arsenic.
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150