When anyone says "arsenic" and people automatically respond with “poison.” Of course they are right. There is no doubt that arsenic can kill you. And it can do so quickly by disrupting the formation of ATP, the compound critical for energy production in cells, or slowly, by triggering cancer. Or it can do nothing. It all comes down to the form of arsenic that is encountered and of course the dose.
We do encounter arsenic, about that there is no doubt. It occurs naturally in minerals and in soil from where it can migrate into crops or leach into water. So it comes as no surprise that small amounts of arsenic can be found in apple juice. But the Dr. Oz Show has blown this way out of proportion. Viewers who tuned in to the season’s first show drawn by promos such as: "we are going to be talking about something that is in your apple juice that shocked me, that will change your perspective,” were told that consumers, children in particular, may be drinking apple juice that had levels of arsenic above 10 parts per billion, the level that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. consider to be the safe limit in drinking water. It is unrealistic to apply drinking water standards to fruit juice because of course juices are not consumed in amounts comparable to water.
Furthermore, the test used was for total arsenic, not the FDA approved test for inorganic arsenic. FDA in fact has been monitoring arsenic in apple juice for years and has never found a problem. Because The Oz show’s findings were shared with FDA before the program aired, the Agency carried out its own tests on the same samples that were implicated as having high levels. The findings differed from those reported by the lab used by the Dr. Oz show. The highest levels found were 6 parts per billion, lower than the 10 ppb standard for drinking water. There is no question that arsenic can be very dangerous. Remember Arsenic and Old Lace? The story was fictional, but the science was real. Poisonings are also very real in Bangladesh where large segments of the population are exposed to arsenic through drinking naturally contaminated well water. And in Taiwan, where the arsenic content of water can be grotesquely high, sometimes as high as 150 ppb, increased cancer rates have been noted. Worry about such levels is well founded, but concern about the amounts claimed to be present in apple juice by Dr. Oz, is not. The arsenic in apple juice story amounts to no more than a publicity gimmick to hype the season opener of the Dr. Oz show. It seems science has become the sacrificial lamb at the altar of ratings. Oz may be a great cardiac surgeon, but in this case his chemistry homework must have been eaten by the dog.