Organic Consumers Association

OCA
Homepage

Previous Page

Click here to print this page

Make a Donation!

JOIN THE OCA NETWORK!

Study Shows Drugs Given to Chickens Expose Consumers to Arsenic & Cancer

From:

THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER
May 7, 2004, Issue #344
Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness
>From a Public Interest Perspective

EDITOR\PUBLISHER; A.V. Krebs
E-MAIL: avkrebs@earthlink.net
WEB SITE: http://www.ea1.com/CARP/
TO RECEIVE: Send name and address

STUDY CHARGES DRUGS USED IN RAISING POULTY EXPOSES CONSUMERS TO MORE ARSENIC, CANCER

ASSOCIATED PRESS: The poultry industry's widespread use of drugs to raise
chickens is exposing people who eat them to more arsenic than previously
estimated, according to a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School
of Public Health.

In a paper published [May 3] in the journal Environmental
HealthPerspectives, Ellen K. Silbergeld said arsenic-laced drugs intended to
keep the birds healthy might pose an increased risk of cancer for consumers.
She also said the drugs could create manure that is contaminating Eastern
Shore ground water.

Silbergeld's research essentially disputed the conclusions of a U.S.
Department of Agriculture study, released in the journal in January, which
concluded that the drugs did not pose a serious health problem.

She said the Agriculture Department underestimated the amount of arsenic
found in chickens and used outdated data to estimate the health risks of
ingesting arsenic.

"This paper had serious problems," Silbergeld said of the USDA report.

Her findings, based on data published by the USDA and other health experts,
could have major implications for the Eastern Shore, where ten percent of
the nation's poultry is raised.

A spokesman for the poultry industry said concerns about arsenic in chicken
feed are unfounded and that tests consistently show arsenic levels in
chickens are well below standards set by the Food and Drug Administration.

"This study appears to be much ado about nothing," Richard Lobb, a spokesman
for the National Chicken Council, told The (Baltimore) Sun.

But Silbergeld, a toxicologist who won a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant
in 1993 for her work linking mercury poisoning with infectious diseases,
disagreed. She said arsenic in chicken feed creates potential problems in
the meat produced and the ground water affected by the waste.

When chickens excrete arsenic in manure, sunlight breaks it down and it
migrates to the soil, where it can contaminate ground water supplies, she
said. She noted that Europe bans arsenic in chicken feed because of these
health concerns.

"This is arsenic. We shouldn't lose sight of the sheer outrageousness of
this," Silbergeld said.

Geologists have been closely monitoring arsenic levels in the Eastern
Shore's water supply for years without finding serious hazards. Health
officials in Queen Anne's, Talbot and Dorchester counties require new wells
to be tested for arsenic because of concerns about contamination of the
local aquifers, said David Bolton, program director of the hydrogeology
section of the Maryland Geological Survey.

A recent U.S. Geological Survey study of the Pocomoke River Basin found
slightly elevated levels of arsenic in shallow layers of ground water that
could be the result of tainted manure, said Tracy Connell Hancock, a USGS
hydrologist.

But she and Bolton said further studies are needed to prove any connection
between the manure and arsenic in the water.

"Whether arsenic gets into the ground water from chicken waste is an open
question that people are just beginning to investigate," Hancock said.