The Cardno ChemRisk View
Wine and Arsenic Featured
In March of last year, reports on the potential health risks of elevated arsenic concentrations in a select group of California wines were making the media rounds. These stories were reporting that the arsenic concentrations in these wines were above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's limit of 10 μg/L for drinking water.
A group of scientists at Cardno ChemRisk (Paustenbach et al., 2016) addressed the topic in their recently published study titled "Analysis of Total Arsenic Content in California Wines and Comparison to Various Health Risk Criteria." The purpose of this study was to evaluate potential arsenic exposure from consuming California wines. Cardno ChemRisk collected sample wines from the group of wines publicized by the media as "high arsenic" wines, as well as other randomly selected wines produced or bottled in California. The publicized wines were found to have greater total arsenic concentrations (mean = 25.6 μg/L) than the randomly selected wines (mean = 7.42 μg/L). Analysis by wine type indicated that blush wines contained the highest concentrations of arsenic (mean = 27.2 μg/L), followed by white (mean = 10.9 μg/L) and red wines (mean = 6.75 μg/L). In addition, the researchers also found that, on average, lower priced wines contained higher arsenic concentrations than did higher priced California wines.
Using standard risk assessment principles, Cardno ChemRisk scientists evaluated whether or not the presence of arsenic in wine could pose a health risk to consumers. Multiple factors were considered in the analysis, including the wine's total arsenic concentration, the consumer's age and body weight, the consumer's frequency of wine consumption and total lifetime wine consumption, and overall dietary arsenic consumption in the general population. The authors found that arsenic in wine only contributed to a fraction (8.3% or less) of a consumer's total arsenic exposure received through diet.
In addition, the authors noted that not a single California wine tested had arsenic concentrations above the current Canadian and International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) limits for arsenic in wine of 100 µg/L and 200 µg/L, respectively (todate, the United States does not have a regulatory limit for arsenic content in wine). The authors note that that the likelihood of any California wine exceeding the Health Canada limit of 100 µg/L is below 0.3%. Ultimately, the study clearly demonstrates that "the presence of arsenic in wine does not represent a health risk for consumers" (Paustenbach et al., 2016: p. 179).
The abstract of the article is available here
On October 26, 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO), announced a monograph declaring processed meats, such as bacon, sausage and hot dogs, as a Group 1 (carcinogenic to humans) carcinogen, and red meat as a Group 2A (probably carcinogenic to humans) carcinogen. The committee based their classification on an evaluation of over 800 epidemiological studies that investigated the association of cancer with red meat or processed meat consumption in multiple countries.
IARC’s classification “indicates the weight of the evidence as to whether an agent is capable of causing cancer" (technically called “hazard”), but it does not measure the likelihood that cancer will occur (technically called “risk”) as a result of exposure to the agent.” Therefore, although IARC places processed meats in the same group as smoking, it does not mean they increase cancer risk equally. For perspective, IARC explained that processed meats contribute to about 34,000 cancer deaths worldwide, whereas 1 million cancer deaths due to tobacco smoking occur per year globally. Based on an analysis of data from 10 studies, IARC estimated that eating 50 grams of processed meat (this corresponds to approximately 1.8 oz or the equivalent of one hot dog) daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. Notably, as suggested in a recent Q&A posted by NPR, the risk of colorectal cancer is already relatively low and dieticians have long recommended eating less red meat and processed foods.
Potential Regulatory Implications
California’s Proposition 65 maintains a list of chemicals known to cause cancer and requires a warning of exposure to listed chemicals to consumers. Earlier this year, OEHHA changed its Prop 65 regulations without voter’s authorization to list substances, as well as chemicals, known to cause cancer, including those classified by IARC as Group 1 and Group 2A. Thus, in response to IARC’s classification of processed and red meats, OEHHA may give notice to add processed and red meats to the Prop 65 list, requiring warnings on packaging for these products. More information on the potential regulatory implications this IARC classification may have on Prop 65 can be found here.