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High levels of arsenic found in red wine, but don't panic

Meagan Morris is an entertainment and lifestyle journalist living in New York City. In addition to SheKnows, Morris contributes to many publications including The New York Times, Yahoo! News, PopEater, NBC New York and Spinner. Follow he...

Study shows 98 percent of red wine contains arsenic above approved levels

Pay attention if you like to enjoy a glass of wine (or two) on occasion.

Researchers at the University of Washington went through 65 different wines from four states — California, Washington, New York and Oregon — and found that 98 percent of the wines tested contained arsenic levels between 10 and 76 parts per billion, with an average of 24 parts per billion.

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To put that into perspective, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that 10 parts per billion is the standard for drinking water.

The most came in wines from Washington state, with an average of 28 parts per billion, with the lowest in Oregon wines at 13. The biggest offenders? Red wines like merlot and Cabernet.

But don't panic and dump out all your wine.

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"Unless you are a heavy drinker consuming wine with really high concentrations of arsenic, of which there are only a few, there’s little health threat if that’s the only source of arsenic in your diet," lead author Denise Wilson, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Washington, said in the study. Arsenic contamination can lead to cancer and even death if there is prolonged exposure to high levels.

It's unlikely that the winemakers are doing something wrong and more likely that it has something to do with the geology in those states, added Wilson.

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"But consumers need to look at their diets as a whole. If you are eating a lot of contaminated rice, organic brown rice syrup, seafood, wine, apple juice — all those heavy contributors to arsenic poisoning — you should be concerned, especially pregnant women, kids and the elderly," she continued.

Your best bet? Keep your wine consumption in moderation and if you're really concerned, buy European labels, because European wines don't contain arsenic, according to Wilson.

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