Is rice safe? Analysis of effects of arsenic in rice on human health

Dr Debapriya Mondal, (

Arsenic is a known carcinogen and recently concern has been expressed about the potential exposure of the general population, that is, population not known to be exposed to arsenic from drinking water, and children in particular, to arsenic in rice or rice related products.

Under normal conditions arsenic in the human body gets methylated and excreted, hence methylation profile or arsenic metabolites in urine is used to determine the methylation capacity. Arsenic toxicity is known to be complicated by variation in individual methylation capacities and hence susceptibilities. It is noteworthy to mention that chronic exposure to arsenic is associated with neurotoxicity, cardiovascular abnormalities, nephrotoxicity, and cancers of the skin, bladder and lung. It is already suggested that the methylation capacity is associated with specific genetic polymorphisms. Also, the possibility of epigenetic modification may be a factor towards arsenic induced damage.

The project aims to determine the biomarkers of arsenic exposure and genetic and epigenetic effects resulting from rice intake, and hence will include the following objectives:

  • determination of arsenic exposure from rice intake in the general UK population using urinary arsenic metabolites
  • establishment of markers of genomic instability and epigenetic disregulation using DNA methylation and or histone modification as a measure of arsenic toxicity from rice intake
  • comparison between the studied UK population and a more highly exposed population in West Bengal, India.

The project will involve, sample collection, food frequency questionnaire survey, analysis using sophisticated instruments like Inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) for total arsenic and use of liquid chromatography (LC) or high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) coupled with mass spectrometry for arsenic metabolites, and use of chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and DNA fragmentation analysis using Tunel. Besides, the successful candidate will have the opportunity to learn the concepts of epidemiology as well as a range of generic transferrable skills including publication of peer-reviewed scientific papers.
It is anticipated that the candidate should have a first degree or masters and have some knowledge in the field of environmental epidemiology and/or molecular epidemiology.

T: +44 (0)161 295 4137