Arseninc in water and paddy fields can cause DNA damage.

Kounteya Sinha | TNN

London: The DNA of an average Kolkatan could be facing serious damage, thanks to the high levels of arsenic being consumed through the rice they eat. 

    A joint Indo-British study announced by the University of Manchester have proven a link between rice containing high levels of arsenic and chromosomal damage, as measured by micronuclei in urothelial cells. 

    Increased frequency of these micronuclei has been shown by researchers to be linked to the development of cancers. Most human cells have one nucleus which contains 46 human chromosomes but when any of these chromosomes are damaged, the part of the chromosome not able to participate in cell division typically remains as small micronuclei in any daughter cells. 
    The researchers from the University of Manchester and CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology in Kolkata looked at the frequency of micronuclei —the tell-tale sign of chromosomal damage among 40,000 people by screening individual cells extracted from
their urine samples. 

    They discovered that people in rural West Bengal eating rice as a staple with greater than 0.2 mg/kg arsenic showed higher frequencies of micronuclei than those consuming rice with less than this concentration of arsenic. 

    They demonstrated that the trend of greater genetic damage with increasing arsenic in rice was observed for both men and women, for tobacco-users and non-users, and for those from three different locations within the study area. 

    Rice is the staple food of over three billion people. Because the rice plant is highly efficient at absorbing arsenic from soil and water, it is reported to be the highest arsenic-containing cereal. For Indians, rice is their staple food. 

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