Maryland, January 20, 2004 (ENS): People who
eat chicken may be taking in greater amounts of arsenic
than anyone has previously thought. Arsenic concentrations
in young chickens are three times greater than in other
meat and poultry products, U.S. government scientists
report in the January issue of "Environmental Health
Arsenic is an approved animal dietary supplement and
is found in specifically approved drugs added to poultry
and other animal feeds. It is fed to broiler chickens
in the form of Roxarsone (4-hydroxy-3-nitrophenyl arsonic
acid) to control intestinal parasites.
Epidemiologist Tamar Lasky of the National Institute
of Child Health and Development, led the study, working
with a team that included scientists from the U.S. Department
of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service
Office of Public Health and Science.
At average levels of chicken consumption — 2
ounces a day, or the equivalent of a third to half of
a boneless chicken breast — people ingest about
3.6 to 5.2 micrograms of inorganic arsenic, the most
toxic form of the element.
People who eat an average of 2.1 ounces a day of chicken,
about half a chicken breast, will take in 3.62 to 5.24
micrograms of inorganic arsenic per day, Lasky and her
About one percent of the U.S. population eats as much
as 10 times that amount of chicken, and takes in a proportionately
larger amount of arsenic, the scientists found.
Bladder, respiratory and skin cancers may result from
a daily intake of 10 to 40 micrograms of arsenic.
A joint expert committee from the UN Food and Agriculture
Organization and the World Health Organization has determined
that a tolerable daily intake of inorganic arsenic to
be two micrograms per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body
weight per day.
People can also be exposed to arsenic in drinking water,
or by breathing air containing dust or smoke from burning
arsenic treated wood, but chicken consumption can make
up a "sizable proportion of the tolerable daily
intake," Lasky and her team report.
More study is needed to find out exactly how the arsenic
consumed in chicken is metabolized in the human body.
The scientists say that the chemical forms of arsenic
found in chicken muscle "have not been reported
in the literature."
It would be helpful to have more detailed laboratory
information about the forms of inorganic and organic
arsenic remaining in chicken muscle, they write, as
well as the effects of cooking on these forms, and the
metabolism of the ingested arsenic.