How Does Arsenic End Up in Apple Juice?

Child drinking apple juiceChild drinking apple juiceby Chanie Kirschner, Mother Nature Network

Q: Seriously? There's arsenic in my kid's apple juice? I am totally freaking out right now. Why is a known carcinogen lurking in my kid's juice box in the first place?

A: I had the same reaction when I heard the news, I gotta tell you. I mean, apple juice just may be the most wholesome, benign thing that kids drink. I have visions of commercials with children running through luscious green orchards with the bright warm sun streaming down on them, drinking what? You guessed it. Apple juice. I want to shudder just thinking about it. That, and throw out the gallons of apple juice that we have in our pantry.

I have to admit, when Dr. Oz broke the news back in September, I was one of the skeptics. I thought, ol' Mehmet must be an alarmist. This must be like the time he told me that cellphones can cause cancer. Or that eating too many sweets would make me fat.

Well, turns out I was wrong (and so was the FDA, by the way). There actually is arsenic in our apple juice, and it's the inorganic kind. That is to say, the kind that causes cancer.

[ Related: Is there arsenic in your rice? ]

The EPA has set the standard for arsenic in our drinking water - it has to be less than 10 ppb (parts per billion) to be considered safe to drink. Of the 88 samples of apple and grape juice tested by Consumer Reports, nine had more arsenic than the levels considered safe for tap water. And loads more had trace levels of it, amounts that we simply can't say are totally safe or not.

Over a long period of exposure, arsenic can affect your child's intelligence. It has also been linked to lung, bladder and liver cancer.

So let's answer your question, because now I have to admit, I'm curious too - why the heck is there any arsenic in our apple juice in the first place?

According to Consumer Reports, as much as two-thirds of all the apple juice in America comes from apple juice concentrate from China. The problem with this? China does not have any environmental regulations about the pesticides used on crops, and they contain - you guessed it - arsenic.

OK, great. So we just buy brands that are manufactured in America, right? Wrong. Consumer Reports also reported that because the U.S. used to use pesticides containing arsenic on crops, there is still arsenic-laced soil that permeates some of the apples grown right here in the United States that are used to make apple juice concentrate.

So what's a mom to do? Well, the first thing you can do is limit the amount of juice your child imbibes. How, you may ask, are you supposed to do that when your son's juice box seems to be glued to his hand? Dilute, dilute, dilute. (With water, that is. Not wine - don't get any ideas.) Or if you're really spooked, as I am, just go cold turkey and dump the juice altogether.

There might be something else tomorrow that we find out is slowly making us stupider (besides the television, that is), but for today, I'm going to go with Dr. Oz on this one and give my kids water to drink from now on. I'm sorry I ever doubted you, old friend.

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