SEGH Articles

Reducing human exposure to arsenic and simultaneously increasing selenium and zinc intake, by substituting non-aromatic rice with aromatic rice in the diet

01 May 2013
A team of scientists led by Dr Parvez Haris is carrying out research to identify ways of reducing human exposure to arsenic through diet

Rice is the staple food of over three billion people.  The rice plant is highly efficient at absorbing arsenic from soil and water, it is reported to be the highest arsenic-containing cereal.  For Bangladeshi’s, rice is their staple food and they consume on average half a kilogramme of rice per day.

A team of scientists led by Dr Parvez Haris from DeMontfort University, Leicester, UK is carrying out research to identify ways of reducing human exposure to arsenic through diet.

Haris and his team have already demonstrated that exposure to the more toxic inorganic arsenic species is greater in people who eat more rice.  In this latest work, published in Biomedical Spectroscopy and Imaging, the DeMontfort University team – along with Dr Michael Watts from the British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham, UK – has identified varieties that are low in arsenic but high in essential trace elements such as selenium and zinc.

Earlier studies showed high concentrations of arsenic in Bangladeshi rice, but the rice samples were mainly regions where the irrigation water contains higher levels of arsenic. The team carried out a detailed study on rice from the greater Sylhet region in the north-east of Bangladesh, which generally has a lower groundwater arsenic concentration. The team analysed 98 rice samples using a technique called Inductively Couple Plasma – Mass Spectromtetry (ICP-MS) to determine total arsenic and also arsenic species in a selected group of samples.

The results showed Sylheti rice to have a far lower arsenic concentration than similar types of rice form other regions of Bangladesh. Results also showed that the arsenic concentration in aromatic rice was 40% less than non-aromatic varieties and that it also contained higher concentrations of the essential elements selenium and zinc. This is very good news for millions of Bangladeshis who are exposed to high concentrations of arsenic through drinking water and rice and are also deficient in zinc and selenium. Several varieties of Sylheti aromatic rice even had lower arsenic than the well known Basmati aromatic rice from India and Pakistan.

For someone consuming 500 grams of non-aromatic or aromatic rice from Sylhet, the daily intake of arsenic from rice would be approximately 48% and 69% lower, respectively, compared with consuming no-aromatic rie from other parts of Bangladesh. Bangladeshis are proud of their diet and often refer to themselves as ‘mache bhathe Bangali’ which can be roughly translated as ‘fish and rice makes a Bengali’. The identification of rice with very low arsenic concentrations and higher concentrations of essential elements is good news for the Bangladeshis and other communities where rice is a staple food but it is important ot encourage a more diversified diet that is less dependent on rice.

Aromatic rice is generally cultivated during the wet (aman) season and therefore is less dependent on the use of groundwater for irrigation. It also requires less fertilizer and pesticides. Although the yield of aromatic rice is lower, the farmers will not need to spend much money on applying chemicals that could pollute the environment and harm their own health. Furthermore, energy costs (electricity or diesel) will be lower as there will be less need for them to pump groundwater for irrigation.

The impact of this finding may also have health implications for other groups of people who eat large quantities of rice daily. This type of rice could also be used in infant foods in stead of rice with higher arsenic concentrations. It could also benefit people suffering from celiac disease who consume rice-based foods on a regular basis. Therefore, it is essential that further research on aromatic rice from different parts of Bangladesh and other regions of the world are conducted.

Dr Parvez Haris, DeMontfort University

pharis@dmu.ac.uk

Reference

Shaban W. Al-Rmalli, Richard O. Jenkins, Michael J Watts, Parvez I. Haris, 2012. Reducing human exposure to arsenic and simultaneously increasing selenium and zinc intake, by substituting non-aromatic rice with aromatic rice in the diet. Watts and Parvez I. Haris. Biomedical Spectroscopy and Imaging Volume 1 / Issue 5. DOI: 1010.3233/BSI-120028.

Full text of the article has been made freely available at http://iospress.metapress.com/content/r81n381j34421481/fulltext.pdf

 

Keep up to date

Submit Content

Members can keep in touch with their colleagues through short news and events articles of interest to the SEGH community.

Science in the News

Latest on-line papers from the SEGH journal: Environmental Geochemistry and Health

  • The society for environmental Geochemistry and health (SEGH): a retrospect 2019-02-22
  • Air quality and PM 10 -associated poly-aromatic hydrocarbons around the railway traffic area: statistical and air mass trajectory approaches 2019-02-19

    Abstract

    Diesel engine railway traffic causes atmosphere pollution due to the exhaust emission which may be harmful to the passengers as well as workers. In this study, the air quality and PM10 concentrations were evaluated around a railway station in Northeast India where trains are operated with diesel engines. The gaseous pollutant (e.g. SO2, NO2, and NH3) was collected and measured by using ultraviolet–visible spectroscopy. The advanced level characterizations of the PM10 samples were carried out by using ion chromatography, Fourier-transform infrared, X-ray diffraction, inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry , X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, field-emission scanning electron microscopy with energy-dispersive spectroscopy, and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy with energy-dispersive spectroscopy techniques to know their possible environmental contaminants. High-performance liquid chromatography technique was used to determine the concentration of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to estimate the possible atmospheric pollution level caused by the rail traffic in the enclosure. The average PM10 concentration was found to be 262.11 µg m−3 (maximum 24 hour) which indicates poor air quality (AQI category) around the rail traffic. The statistical and air mass trajectory analysis was also done to know their mutual correlation and source apportionment. This study will modify traditional studies where only models are used to simulate the origins.

  • The geochemistry of geophagic material consumed in Onangama Village, Northern Namibia: a potential health hazard for pregnant women in the area 2019-02-18

    Abstract

    Ingestion of geophagic materials might affect human health and induce diseases by different ways. The purpose of this study is to determine the geochemical composition of geophagic material consumed especially by pregnant women in Onangama Village, Northern Namibia and to assess its possible health effects. X-ray fluorescence and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry were used in order to determine the major, and trace elements as well as anions concentrations of the consumed material. The geochemical analysis revealed high concentrations of aluminium (Al), calcium (Ca), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), potassium (K), sodium (Na), and silica (Si); and trace elements including arsenic (As), chromium (Cr), mercury (Hg), nickel (Ni) and vanadium (V) as well as sulphate (SO42−), nitrate (NO3), and nitrite (NO2) anions comparing to the recommended daily allowance for pregnant women. The pH for some of the studied samples is alkaline, which might increase the gastrointestinal tract pH (pH < 2) and cause a decrease in the bioavailability of elements. The calculated health risk index (HRI > 1) revealed that Al and Mn might be a potential risk for human consumption. Based on the results obtained from the geochemical analysis, the consumption of the studied material might present a potential health risk to pregnant women including concomitant detrimental maternal and foetal effects.