Co-exposure to methylmercury and inorganic arsenic in baby rice cereals and rice-containing teething biscuits

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Abstract

Background:

Rice is an important dietary source for methylmercury (MeHg), a potent neurotoxin, and inorganic arsenic (As), a human carcinogen. Rice baby cereals are a dietary source of inorganic As; however, less is known concerning MeHg concentrations in rice baby cereals and rice teething biscuits.

Methods:

MeHg concentrations were measured in 36 rice baby cereals, eight rice teething biscuits, and four baby cereals manufactured with oats/wheat (n = 48 total). Arsenic (As) species, including inorganic As, were determined in rice baby cereals and rice teething biscuits (n = 44/48), while total As was determined in all products (n = 48).

Results:

Rice baby cereals and rice teething biscuits were on average 61 and 92 times higher in MeHg, respectively, and 9.4 and 4.7 times higher in total As, respectively, compared to wheat/oat baby cereals. For a 15-g serving of rice baby cereal, average MeHg intake was 0.0092 μg day−1 (range: 0.0013–0.034 μg day−1), while average inorganic As intake was 1.3 μg day−1 (range: 0.37–2.3 μg day−1). Inorganic As concentrations in two brands of rice baby cereal (n = 12/36 boxes of rice cereal) exceeded 100 ng/g, the proposed action level from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Log10 MeHg and inorganic As concentrations in rice baby cereals were strongly, positively correlated (Pearson's rho = 0.60, p < 0.001, n = 36).

Conclusions:

Rice-containing baby cereals and teething biscuits were a dietary source of both MeHg and inorganic As. Studies concerning the cumulative impacts of MeHg and inorganic As on offspring development are warranted.

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