Geographical Variation in Total and Inorganic Arsenic Content of Polished (White) Rice

Andrew Alexander Meharg, Paul Nicholas Williams, Eureka Adomako, Youssef Lawgali, Claire Marie Deacon, Antia Villada, Robert C. J. Cambell, Guoxin Sun, Yongguan Zhu, Jorg Feldmann, Andrea Raab, Zhi Jun Zhao, Rafiqul Islam, S.a. Hossain, Junta Yanai

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An extensive data set of total arsenic analysis for 901 polished (white) grain samples, originating from 10 countries from 4 continents, was compiled. The samples represented the baseline (i.e., not specifically collected from arsenic contaminated areas), and all were for market sale in major conurbations. Median total arsenic contents of rice varied 7-fold, with Egypt (0.04 mg/kg) and India (0.07 mg/kg) having the lowest arsenic content while the U.S. (0.25 mg/kg) and France (0.28 mg/kg) had the highest content. Global distribution of total arsenic in rice was modeled by weighting each country's arsenic distribution by that country's contribution to global production. A subset of 63 samples from Bangladesh, China, India, Italy, and the U.S. was analyzed for arsenic species. The relationship between inorganic arsenic content versus total arsenic content significantly differed among countries, with Bangladesh and India having the steepest slope in linear regression, and the U.S. having the shallowest slope. Using country-specific rice consumption data, daily intake of inorganic arsenic was estimated and the associated internal cancer risk was calculated using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cancer slope. Median excess internal cancer risks posed by inorganic arsenic ranged 30-fold for the 5 countries examined, being 0.7 per 10,000 for Italians to 22 per 10,000 for Bangladeshis, when a 60 kg person was considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1612-1617
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2009


  • market basket survey
  • dietary exposure
  • risk-assessment
  • cooked rice
  • Bangladesh
  • contamination
  • soils
  • grain
  • population
  • speciation


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