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Global Healthbeat: Folic Acid Lowers Blood Arsenic Levels in Bangladesh



Arsenic contaminated drinking water is a major public health concern in 70 countries, including the US. 100 million people world wide are thought to be affected. Chronic arsenic poisoning due to long-term exposure in drinking water causes cancer of the skin, lungs, bladder and kidney as well as other skin changes like hyperkeratosis according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

A new study conducted in Bangladesh has found that folic acid supplements dramatically reduces the blood arsenic levels in exposed individuals. The study was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Researchers found that treatment with 400 mcg. of folic acid reduced blood arsenic levels by 14%. Folate is a B vitamin found in leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans and whole grains. Researchers found that folic acid supplementation decreased the detoxification of arsenic to a form that could be more readily excreted in urine.

Effected countries include Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Chile, China, Hungary, India, Mexico, Peru, Thailand and the USA (mostly western states). On a related note, a different group of researchers has discovered that ferns, specifically the fronds Pteris vittata
remove arsenic from soil and water, soaking it up through their roots and absorbing it through their fronds. These pretty ferns are available through Edenspace at $4.95 a piece, are easy to grow and tolerate sunlight.

Thank you Ahron de Leeuw for use of Dhaka steamers (Bangladesh) photo.
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