Arsenic evokes fears among the consumers as it is one of the earliest poisons known to humans. It is unbelievable how such a poisonous substance is allowed to be used by the poultry industry purely for increasing the visual quality of meat. It is claimed by the industry that including arsenic in the poultry feed also fights infections among the birds though there are many other safer substances available for preventing infectious diseases. Of course there is excellent chance that practice of using arsenic compounds like Roxarsone in poultry feeds by more than 70% of the broiler growers in the US may be banned in the near future considering that the excreta from such birds containing high levels of arsenic contaminates ground water. According to WHO more than 57 million people in the world have access to only water that contains more than 10 ppb arsenic, the safe limit set by the global agency. How far the poultry industry has contributed to this unfortunate situation is any body's guess!
Elemental arsenic and arsenic compounds are classified as Group I carcinogens by the European Union as elevated levels of these poisonous substances, especially for prolonged periods, can lead to cancer of bladder, kidney, prostate, skin and nasal cavity. Though testing of blood, urine, hair and nails can reveal arsenic levels in human body, the test results cannot be depended upon to predict the effect of arsenic at levels detected by one or two tests. According to knowledgeable scientists arsenic can elevate the production of Hydrogen Peroxide in the tissue leading generation of active Oxygen radicals with potential to damage the DNA. This in turn can lead to cancer over long periods of exposure. As per some estimates there are more than 80 million people across the world, exposed to drinking water sources containing between 10 and 50 ppb arsenic and incidence of cancer is high among these population. In the US alone 20% of wells yield water with high arsenic concentration. Water treatment technology to day has the wherewithal to remove arsenic and probably such treatment regimes are protecting people from arsenic epidemic.Recent announcement about voluntary suspension of use of arsenic laced feed by the FDA of the US comes after years of controversy over the widespread poultry industry practice of giving chicks arsenic-laced feed to combat infection and give their flesh a pinker hue. Surprisingly use of arsenic containing feed is confined only to the US and why this was being allowed could be due to the lobbying power of the industry on the government. It may be recalled that there has been persistent demand by scientists and environmentalists to ban it nationally because of their concerns about food safety and the environmental impact of arsenic in poultry waste getting into soil and streams.