Warnings raised about baby rice

Baby rice, the bland porridge sold in supermarkets for weaning infants, can contain potentially dangerous levels of arsenic, according to new research done in the United Kingdom. The discovery calls for more attention to food-production sources, the authors say, but experts are divided on the value of the study.

High doses of arsenic in drinking water can cause cancer when consumed over long periods of time. In the European Union and United States, there are stringent limits on arsenic levels in water but fewer restrictions for food. Rice has come under scientific scrutiny because it soaks up arsenic from the soil more readily than other grains do. In fact, studies have shown that some people in the United States are exposed to more arsenic by eating rice than any other food, although the health hazards associated with it are uncertain.

Andrew Meharg, an environmental chemist at the University of Aberdeen, U.K., decided to measure arsenic levels in baby rice, a precooked, dried, and milled rice product that is a staple for weaning infants. Meharg and colleagues analyzed 17 samples of baby rice from three manufacturers, all taken from supermarkets in Aberdeen. More than one-third of the samples contained levels of inorganic arsenic–the more toxic of the two arsenic forms normally found in rice–equal to or exceeding the legal limit of arsenic in food in China, which has stricter regulations than the European Union and the United States. A baby eating one serving per day would ingest more arsenic per kilogram of body weight than an adult drinking water with the maximum allowed E.U./U.S. dose, the team reports this month in Environmental Pollution.

The finding highlights the need for the European Union and the United States to restrict arsenic in food as well as water, says Meharg. “You can’t say you have to highly regulate one source and totally ignore another source…”

Other experts are more cautious…Joyce Tsuji, a toxicologist at the science consulting company Exponent in Bellevue, Washington, warns that evaluating a baby’s arsenic intake from rice against drinking water standards is an “apples to oranges” comparison because water standards are based on risks extrapolated from studies of lifelong, high-dose exposure, not short-term childhood exposure. “We should be careful before telling people to throw their rice out,” she says.

Americans don’t realize how frequent naturally occurring arsenic is – especially in the Mountain West and the interior Plains states. For that reason, many folks out here are pretty cautious about all sources of arsenic. AFAIK the element leaves blood and urine quickly – exposure over time can be measured in hair and nail-clippings.

Worth keeping an eye on these studies.

Not a bad note considering it’s written by a 7-year-old who was born without hands

A seven-year-old student born without hands has won a US national handwriting contest.

Anaya Ellick from Chesapeake, Virginia, does not use prosthetics. To write, she stands to get the proper angle, holding a pencil between her arms.

Her principal, Tracy Cox from Greenbrier Christian Academy, describes her as an “inspiration”.

“She does not let anything get in the way of doing what she has set out to do,” says Ms Cox.

“She is a hard worker and has some of the best handwriting in her class.”

The girl reportedly beat 50 other competitors to get the special-needs category prize at the National Handwriting Contest.

Anaya Ellick

Here she is with her trophy

My hero of the day.

No justice yet for the victims of US air strike on hospital in Afghanistan


Carolyn Kaster/AP

Kathleen Thomas grimly recalls the day when a US warplane flew over in Afghanistan and bombed her intensive care unit.

A survivor of the attack – which killed 42 and wounded dozens of others in the northern city of Kunduz – Thomas recounted seeing patients trapped in their hospital beds and engulfed in flames.

“The strikes tore through the outpatients department, which had become a sleeping area for staff. Our colleagues didn’t die peacefully like in the movies,” Thomas said.

“They died painfully, slowly, some of them screaming out for help that never came, alone and terrified, knowing the extent of their own injuries and aware of their impending death. It was a scene of nightmarish horror that will be forever etched in my mind…”

The account is part of Thomas’ public testimony released recently by Doctors Without Borders (MSF). The international medical charity operated the hospital in Kunduz that was flattened by a US air strike last October.

Seven months since the deadly attack, survivors and family members of victims have struggled for an elusive justice that may never come. Even though the US government has disciplined more than a dozen personnel, it has still skirted an independent investigation into the air strike, described by MSF as a “war crime”.

…US actions have sowed fears among human rights activists and advocacy groups that the entrenched pattern of bombing hospitals by “mistake” – in the words of the US government – would leave health facilities in conflict zones even more vulnerable.

“We run the risk of getting used to these [unacceptable attacks] when actually our tolerance ratio should be zero,” Roman Oyarzun Marchesi, the permanent representative of Spain to the United Nations, said at a recent policy forum on attacks on healthcare facilities in armed conflict.

“Wars may be inevitable, but there are rules to follow,” Marchesi said. “Respecting international humanitarian law is not only a matter of life and death; it is humanity itself that’s at stake here.”

RTFA if you’re not already familiar with the details of this atrocity. The Pentagon “investigation” is a farce – as you would expect. The history of official government studies of their own war crimes is absurd to begin with.

An independent commission is needed. The power to bring the guilty to justice is a necessity. For once, the United States government must end the perpetual systematic coverups of “accidental” murder of civilians.