What You Need to Know About Arsenic in Wine

IMG_0666An independent laboratory, BeverageGrades, sampled over 1,300 wines for arsenic levels. 83 wines from 28 wineries in California had high levels of arsenic. Some of them were 4 to 5 times the Environmental Protection Agencies acceptable levels for arsenic in drinking water, 10 ppb. The wines with the higher concentrations were the cheaper California wines. Here is the list of wines found to have high arsenic levels.

Why is there arsenic in wine?

Arsenic is a naturally occurring mineral and can be found in soils. If an arsenic-containing pesticide or other arsenic contamination occurred in the soil, the arsenic will stick around as it is a heavy metal. If the soil in which the grapes are grown has higher levels of arsenic, the plant will absorb more arsenic into the grape. Leaves and fruits absorb more toxins than the grain of a plant.

Arsenic concentrations in groundwater, via USGS.

Arsenic concentrations in the groundwater, via USGS.

Why is the arsenic found in the cheaper California wine?

Most of the wine from California is grown in the central valley and coast. These are the cheaper wines. These wineries rely more on irrigation than the Napa Valley wines. Arsenic levels are higher in groundwater than surface water. If the irrigation water is from groundwater, it may contain more arsenic, which introduces more arsenic into to soil.

Wines grown in the Napa Valley, the more expensive ones, rely less on irrigation and therefore have less arsenic.

How much arsenic is in this wine?

As stated above, the analysis found arsenic at levels 4 to 5 times above the EPA standards for arsenic in safe drinking water. The EPA does not have a standard for arsenic in wine.

What is the danger of arsenic?

Arsenic is poisonous and a carcinogen. It can cause acute poisoning, but more likely the harm is from long-term, cumulative exposure. If ingested through food and water, it can lead to damage of the red blood cells, liver, nerves, and brain. It’s a bad toxin.

Do I need to worry?

We are exposed to so many toxins throughout our lives, willingly and unwillingly. Reducing or removing a known toxin is always a good idea. If you’re worried, stop drinking these wines.

The Wine Institute released a statement that, “There is no research that shows that the amounts found in wine pose a health risk to consumers.”

The International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) has set a standard for arsenic levels in European wines. Wines need to contain less than 200 ppb of arsenic. The samples collected in the cheap California wine were 4-5 times the EPA standard of 10 ppb. That means these wines contained 40-50 ppb of arsenic. That is well below the OIV EU standard of 200 ppb.

What should I do?

  • Stopping drinking the cheap California wines on this list.
  • If you’re going to drink California wine, drink wine from the Napa valley.
  • BeverageGrades posted a list of the wines lower in heavy metals. Drink these.

The question now is, what about tequila?