Arsenic in wine more buzzkill than danger


What is the mostly likely result of a few glasses of Two-Buck Chuck, Simply Naked Moscato or FlipFlop Pinot Grigio?

Will you end up with arsenic poisoning or just a dull headache and a few regrets? Frankly, all responsible scientific research indicates regrets and a rough morning is far more likely than any issue with arsenic.

A lot of buzz was created about two weeks ago when a lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court against a group of wine producers claiming labs found some wines exceeding what is allowed in drinking water.

Essentially the wines in question are low-priced and pretty sweet supermarket labels.

The lawsuit was filed after more than 1,300 wines were tested by a California lab. They found several wines that had arsenic levels above the 10 parts per billion allowed in drinking water. The highest they found in one wine was 50 parts per billion.

Please note the word “billion.” So should wine drinkers be alarmed? No.

The federal government sets no limits for arsenic in wine. Canada does set a limit of 100 ppb for arsenic in wine. Does that add some perspective? Additionally, of those 1,300 California wines tested, 90 percent of them came in at under 10 ppb. And of those wines, 99 percent were under 25 ppb.

Arsenic is toxins found in the Earth’s soil. So if you’ve ever eaten anything grown from God’s green Earth, you’ve likely ingested some arsenic. Some pesticides have very small amounts of arsenic as well.

By the way, that arsenic standard for water deserves closer inspection. Federal regulations limit arsenic at 10 ppb in drinking water, and that’s based on the consumption of two liters per day. Folks, if you’re drinking two liters of wine a day, you have alcohol poisoning – don’t worry about the arsenic.

It’s like many of the early cancer research studies that showed this or that can cause cancer in lab rats. In truth, you’d have to consume massive quantities of the carcinogen daily to replicate the cancer from those early studies.

So there are two solutions to the arsenic and wine dilemma.

One, limit your intake to less than two liters a day. Really, do it for your family and liver.

Second, drink better wine.

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes about wine every other week for more than 20 newspapers. Visit his wine blog at: Reach Howard at: [email protected]

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