While arsenic has been famously slipped into the food or drink of unsuspecting spouses and royalty for centuries, today it’s more likely to be fed to poultry, applied to crops, leached from pressure-treated wood, puffed into the air by coal-fired power plants and drilled free from bedrock.
As a result, experts warn that many people are unwittingly exposed to small amounts every day. Each exposure may not be acutely deadly, or even noticeably harmful, but the sum of tiny doses over time may take a toll on the body — potentially triggering or exacerbating disease, said Harbut.
The consequences can run the gamut of today’s major health concerns, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Despite the fact that arsenic consistently ranks at the top of federal government lists of environmental chemicals of concern to human health, no standards yet exist for arsenic levels in food.