Wines Contain Heavy Metal Hazard

Monday, November 3, 2008 9:27 AM

By: Sylvia Booth Hubbard

Your glass of wine may not be as healthy as you think. Although touted for its heart-health benefits, a new study found that many wines contain potentially hazardous levels of at least seven heavy metal ions that could be a health hazard. An analysis of wines from sixteen countries found that only those produced in Argentina, Brazil and Italy did not have levels of metal high enough to be considered a possible health threat.

The study, carried out by professors from Kingston University, South West London, used a formula developed by the United Statesí Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to estimate health risks linked to frequent, long-term exposure to pollutants. The Targeted Hazard Quotient (THQ) is based on the upper safe limits for chemicals, and a THQ below 1.0 is believed to be safe. In comparison, seafood with THQ of between one and five has raised health concerns.

Metal ions of vanadium, copper and manganese were responsible for most of the contamination, but zinc, nickel, chromium and lead were also found in higher levels than considered safe.

Most red and white wines had THQ levels well above the safe level. Even though a THQ level above 1 pointed to a health risk, typical wines were found to have THQ levels between 50 and 200. Nations that export large quantities of wine to the United States, such as France, Germany, Spain, and Portugal, had THQ values over 100. Hungarian and Slovakian wines had levels over 350.

"These values are concerning," said Professor Declan Naughton. "Excess intake of metal ions is credited with pathological events such as Parkinson's disease. In addition to neurological problems, these ions are also believed to enhance oxidative damage, a key component of chronic inflammatory disease which is a suggested initiator of cancer."

The study's authors suggested that metal levels should appear on wine labels and steps should be taken to remove metal ions during wine production.

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