Much ado has been made about the health benefits of red wine, but face it: Most of us drink it because it's delicious (and uh, it gets us drunk). But according to a new study, that nightly glass of Cabernet might actually be slowly poisoning you.
ScienceDaily reports on a just-published study from the University of Washington "that tested 65 wines from America's top four wine-producing states — California, Washington, New York and Oregon — [and] found all but one have arsenic levels that exceed what's allowed in drinking water."
Arsenic is a naturally-occurring chemical found in water, soil, and air, and therefore one that finds its way into many types of foods; long-term exposure to arsenic has been linked to several different types of cancer, as well as heart disease.
And while this is the first formal research study in decades on American wine's arsenic levels, it's not an issue previously unknown to consumers: Earlier this year a class-action lawsuit was filed against a group of California winemakers for selling wines with high levels of arsenic.
The new study found "Washington wines had the highest arsenic concentrations, averaging 28 parts per billion, while Oregon's had the lowest, averaging 13 parts per billion." By comparison, EPA regulations dictate that drinking water can contain a maximum of 10 parts per billion of arsenic.
A little arsenic in your wine is probably nothing to worry about, however: UW professor Denise Wilson says, "Unless you are a heavy drinker consuming wine with really high concentrations of arsenic, of which there are only a few, there's little health threat if that's the only source of arsenic in your diet."
Eater spoke with Chris Gerling, an enology extension associate at Cornell University, who agrees there's little cause for alarm: "Wine does contain trace amounts of arsenic, but most plant-based foods will probably also have detectable levels. In some cases the levels are slightly higher than the drinking water standard, but we generally don’t boil our pasta in wine, make our coffee with it, bathe our children and wash our clothes in it. I think that a person who was consuming enough wine to cause problems related to arsenic would probably have more problems related to drinking too much alcohol."
Other foods that can be high in arsenic include apple juice, seafood, and organic brown rice syrup. The latter is a common ingredient in products like Clif Bars — so if you're a protein bar junkie who also enjoys a glass of red wine every night, it might be time to choose one or the other. (Decisions, decisions.)