But besides being carcinogenic, chronic exposure to inorganic arsenic has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and declines in brain functions.
According to the university’s Center for a Livable Future, “Arsenic-based drugs have been used for decades to make poultry grow faster and improve the pigmentation of the meat. The drugs are also approved to treat and prevent parasites in poultry … Currently in the U.S., there is no federal law prohibiting the sale or use of arsenic-based drugs in poultry feed.”
In 2011, we reported that the FDA had acknowledged Roxarsone — a feed additive used to increase weight gain — in chicken, swine and turkey feed contained arsenic. The FDA authorized the use of Roxarsone in March 1944 and by the mid-1960s, its use as a feed additive was widespread.
According to the study, in January, Maryland became the first U.S. state to ban the use of most arsenicals in chicken feed.
Moyers also mentions a story featured in The Washington Post about toxic, bacteria-killing chemicals used in poultry plants to clean more chickens more quickly to meet increased demand and make more money.
According to Amanda Hitt, director of the Government Accountability Project’s Food Integrity Campaign, “They are mixing chemicals together in these plants, and it’s making people sick. Does it work better at killing off pathogens? Yes, but it also can send someone into respiratory arrest.”
Moyers points out that “as long as there are insufficient checks and balances on big business and its powerful lobbies, we are at their mercy.”
He adds that the government has done next to nothing. No research into the possible side effects, no comprehensive record-keeping on illnesses, and the Post reports, “they review data provided by chemical manufacturers.”
And incredulously, the USDA is about to allow the production lines to move even faster, by as much as 25 percent, which means more chemicals, more exposure, more sickness.
The Washington Post’s Kimberly Kindy explains that under the proposed new rules, which could be finalized as soon as this summer, the number of chemical treatments used is likely to increase.
To keep speeds up, the new regulations “would allow visibly contaminated poultry carcasses to remain online for treatment — rather than being discarded or removed for off-line cleaning, as is now common practice. The proposed rules say all carcasses on the line would be treated with antimicrobial chemicals whether they are contaminated or not.”
Moyers urges readers to think of the 85,000 industrial chemicals available today, and of those, only a handful have been tested for safety.
Ian Urbina writes in The New York Times, “Hazardous chemicals have become so ubiquitous that scientists now talk about babies being born pre-polluted, sometimes with hundreds of synthetic chemicals showing up in their blood.”
“Arsenic in chicken production poses a risk not only to human health, but to the environment,” said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports. “We need to get arsenic out of food production altogether.”
Moyers warns that the ability of big business and its powerful lobbies to buy off public officials is an assault on democracy and a threat to our lives and health. “When an entire political system persists in producing such gross injustice, it is making inevitable wholesale defiance.”