Traces of arsenic in rice worry some

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You won't find even a single grain of rice at the home of Aubrey Graf-Daniels.

The grain is off limits for dinnertime,  she substitutes "rice" made from minced cauliflower.

On a recent night, she was busy preparing the dish for her family.

"I stopped eating rice about two to three years ago on a consistent basis because I'd heard about the arsenic," she told CBS News.

In recent years, there's been concern about this contaminant in rice.

Arsenic is a known carcinogen and exposure to too much can cause health problems.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been monitoring levels for decades and has said the arsenic levels found in rice products are too low to cause short-term issues.

But research is also finding that arsenic can have a longer-term impact on health, and is linked to certain cancers and heart disease.

"The number of health effects we contribute to arsenic has grown over time," Dr. Joseph Graziano, professor of environmental health sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, told CBS News.

Graziano's lab at Columbia studied arsenic in water and its effects on pregnant women.

He found higher levels can be particularly problematic for newborns. "We've learned arsenic can alter the DNA," he said. "It may influence the health outcomes later in life."

Currently, the FDA is studying the long-term health issues associated with arsenic but the agency has not indicated when they plan to release the findings of their research.

For now, experts say to eat a well-balanced diet that also includes other grains such as wheat, barley and oats.

USA Rice provided the following statement about arsenic and U.S.-grown rice:

According to Food and Drug Administration and U.S. rice industry research, arsenic levels found in U.S.-grown rice are below safe maximum levels established last year by the World Health Organization.  Studies show that including brown rice in the diet provides measureable health benefits that outweigh the potential risks associated with exposure to trace levels of arsenic. The U.S. rice industry is committed to growing a safe and healthy product; we continuously test our crop, and research ways of reducing the already low levels of arsenic found in rice even further.

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