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Mercury in HFCS

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 2

Toxins, toxins everywhere

Mercury in High Fructose Corn Syrup

Toxins are everywhere. There are small amounts of toxic fuel oils in alcoholic beverages and neurotoxins in potatoes that have been stored too long.[5293] As consumers, we need to make choices that lower the amounts of toxins we eat or drink. Let me add two extemely dangerous toxins to your list: mercury and arsenic.

When a friend of mine mentioned that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has mercury in it, I was skeptical. Fortunately, the scientist part of me pushed me to look into her claim. As a result of the manufacturing process, HCFS contains trace amounts of mercury.[5129] 

mercury1

Mercury is a highly toxic element; there is no known safe level of exposure. Ideally, neither children nor adults should have any mercury in their bodies because it provides no physiological benefit. [5130] It is a neurotoxin and is fat-soluble. Since our brains are 60% fat, acute or chronic mercury exposure can cause adverse effects during any period of development.[5130] In children, it affects memory, attention, language, fine motor skills, and visual spatial skills.[5283] In adults, mercury poisoning may result in lack of coordination, speech impairment, problems with hearing, difficulty walking, and muscle weakness.[5283] Mercury exposure changes the functions of neurons in children with autism.[5129]

So, how does mercury end up in HFCS? Products developed with mercury chlor-alkli technology are used in the food industry, including citric acid, sodium benzoate, and high fructose corn syrup. In one study, mercury was found in 45 % of samples of HFCS from three different manufacturers.[5125] The amount of mercury in HFCS ranged from 0 to 0.57 μg/g of HFCS. The average daily consumption of HFCS is 50 g per person each day. Doing the math, one can estimate daily mercury exposure to be 28.4 μg, much more than the recommended zero!

Photo credit: Mrs. Pugliano on Flickr

More toxins

Arsenic in organic brown rice syrup

"That's all right," you say. "I only eat organic foods." I've got some bad news for you. If you think mercury is bad, try some arsenic. Many organic foods and energy bars are sweetened with organic brown rice syrup. Unfortunately, organic brown rice syrup contains arsenic.[5126]

arsenic

Photo credit: topquark22 on Flickr

Arsenic is present in food, soil, and water, and everyone is exposed to it.[5294] Research has demonstrated a link between arsenic exposure and many types of cancer, inclduing skin, bladder, lung, liver, kidney, and prostate. Arsenic can also increase the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes.[5294] Finally, it causes a number of neurological effects: numbness in hands and feet, partial paralysis, and blindness.[5295]

The US Environmental Protection Agency's standard for arsenic levels in drinking water is 10 parts per billion.[5295] Let's see how organic brown rice syrup (ORBS) measures up to the EPA standard. In one study, organic toddler milk formula sweetened with ORBS had arsenic concentrations six times as high as the EPA standard. In that same study, cereal bars and high-energy foods with OBRS also had much higher concentrations of the toxin than equivalent products without OBRS.[5127]

How does arsenic get in OBRS? Simply, through the rice. Rice has a special affinity for arsenic, and absorbs it more readily than other plants. Concentrating the sugars in the rice will concentrate the arsenic.

So, what are we as consumers to do? Eat a varied diet, that will lessen the exposure to mercury, arsenic, fuel alcohols, other neurotoxins, harmful pathogens, and other nasties. Finally, eat real food, not processed, as much as possible.

 

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Comments

Oct 9, 2012 6:28pm
LavenderRose
I knew about the mercury in HFCS but didn't know about the arsenic in rice. That makes sense, since I have trouble with brown rice sometimes. Even the organic type. I'm going to have to watch how much I'm eating. I don't eat the brown rice syrup though, so I'm okay there. I linked to this from my LC blog. Nice article. And I'm giving it a thumbs up too.
Oct 10, 2012 8:38am
JoannieHam
Thanks for the like and the link! My daughter has now sworn off HFCS as a result of my research for this article.
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Bibliography

  1. R Dufault, B LeBlanc, R Schnoll, C Cornett, L Schweitzer, D Wallinga, J Hightower, L Patrick, WT Lukiw "Mercury from chlor-alkali plants: measured concentrations in food product sugar." Environ Health. 26 (2009): 2.
  2. K Cottingham "Bite of arsenic, with Kathryn Cottingham. Interviewed by Ashley Ahearn." Environ Health Perspect. 120 (2012): 8p following A189.
  3. BP Jackson, VF Taylor, MR Kargas, T Punshon, K Cottingham "Arsenic, organic foods, and brown rice syrup." Environ Health Perspect. 120 (2012): 623-6.
  4. AH Smith, PA Lopipero, MN Bates, CM Steinmaus "Public Health. Arsenic epidemiology and drinking water standards." Science. 296 (2002): 2145-6.
  5. R Dufault, R Schnool, WJ Lukiw, B LeBlanc, C Cornett, L Patrick, D Wallinga, SG Gilbert, R Crider "Mercury exposure, nutritional deficiencies, and metabolic disruptions may affect learning in children." Behav Brain Func. 27 (2009): 44.
  6. S Bose-O'Reilly, KM McCarty, N Steckling, B Lettmeier "Mercury exposure and children's health." Curr Probl Pedeatr Adolesc Health Care. 40 (2010): 186-215.
  7. "Health Effects." US Environmental Protection Agency|Mercury. 7/February/2012. 6/October/2012 <Web >
  8. M Satin Food Alert: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Food Safety, 2nd edition. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2008.
  9. C 0 Abernathy, Y P Liu, et al. "Arsenic: Health Effects, Mechanisms of Actions, and Research Issues." Environmental Health Perspectives. 107 (1999): 593-597.
  10. "Arsenic in Drinking Water." US Environmental Protection Agency| Arsenic in Drinking Water. 7/October/2012 <Web >

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