Population Health

March 11, 2020

New UW study shows warmer temperatures will increase arsenic levels in rice

Image of woman studying rice quality in a field in CambodiaResearchers at the University of Washington have found that warmer temperatures, at levels expected under most climate change projections, can lead to higher concentrations of arsenic in rice grains. Arsenic in large doses is a toxin linked to multiple health conditions and dietary-related cancers.

Arsenic occurs naturally in the soil, though its concentration is higher in areas that have historically used arsenic-based herbicides or where irrigation water contains arsenic. When farmers grow crops like rice under flooded conditions, arsenic is drawn out of the soil and into the water.

Some forms of arsenic are more toxic than others. The team is also collaborating with researchers at UW Tacoma to develop a method that would allow them to see what forms of arsenic are in the different parts of the plant, which will allow a better picture of any potential health risks to people.

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