Euro wines carrying potentially dangerous levels of heavy metals

UK researchers have discovered most European wine nations are exporting red and white wines with potentially dangerous levels of at least seven heavy metals reports WebMD.

The findings appear in the Oct. 29 issue of Chemistry Central Journal.

One glass of wine per day could end up more costly than you imagined according to Kingston University in London scientists Declan Naughton and Andrea Petroczi.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has designed a measure of ‘target hazard quotients’ (THQs) to determine the safe levels of frequent, long-term exposure to various chemicals, which Naughton calculated for 15 wines from Europe, the Middle East, and South America.

Typical wines have a THQ ranging from 50 to 200 per glass with some up 300, while in comparison seafood THQs that typically range between 1 and 5 have raised concerns about heavy-metal contamination.

A THQ over 1 indicates a health risk.

"I was surprised at this finding, and would be very interested if regulatory authorities and food-safety people will look at this. The wine industry should look at ways to remove these metals from wine, or to find out where the metals come from and prevent this from happening", Mr Naughton said to WebMD.

Vanadium, copper and manganese accounted for the majority of contamination, but zinc, chromium, lead and nickel were also found with THQs over 1.

University of Rochester, N.Y behavioral neurotoxicologist Bernard Weiss, PhD is most worried about the effects of one metal in particular – manganese, which accumulates in the brain and has been linked to Parkinson’s disease.

"From the point of view of just one of these metals in wine, manganese, I would be concerned. Any time you see numbers like they have in this study, you begin to scratch your head and wonder about the effects over a long period of ingestion: Not one glass of wine last Tuesday, but a glass a day over a lifetime”, Mr Weiss said to WebMD.

Italy, Brazil and Argentina however, were found to have safe levels of heavy metals.

The worst level of THQs were found in wines from these countries:

• Hungary
• Slovakia
• France
• Austria
• Spain
• Germany
• Portugal
• Greece
• Czech Republic
• Jordan
• Macedonia
• Serbia

France, Austria, Spain, Germany, and Portugal’s maximum potential THQ values were over 100, while Hungary and Slovakia had maximum potential THQ values over 350.

Argentinean and Italian wines had no significant maximum THQ values.

"If you buy a bottle of wine, the only thing it tells you on the label is the amount of alcohol. I like the idea of labeling wines with the amounts of heavy metals they contain. Many wines don't have these metals. So let customers vote by choice whether they want the heavy metals", Naughton said to WebMD.

Possible sources for the heavy metal contamination include the soil of the vineyards, fungicides used, and contaminants in the fermenting yeasts.

Naughton and Petroczi calculated THQs from data published in scientific journals rather than directly measuring the wines. They also point out that drinking red wine has been linked to health benefits because of its antioxidants.

"However, the finding of hazardous levels of metal ions which can be pro-oxidants leads to a major question mark over the protective benefits of red wine," they suggest.

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21 Comments & Questions

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The THQ is based on a hypothesis that says that there is a threshold below which no effects occur (1.0). This isn't necessarily the case, but that's the way they were developed.

There is a serious flaw in the WebMD article and this one -- a single glass of wine does not have a THQ of 100 or 300. The way the EPA guidlines are constructed, a 150-pound man drinking a glass of wine every day over 70 years will give you the THQ listed in the article. But inherently, a glass of wine doesn't have that TEQ -- which is a combination of inherent toxicity AND exposure.

The northern hemisphere is more polluted in general than the southern hemisphere, because it industrialized first. A potential cause of the contamination is that airborne metals travel northward due to prevailing winds, and then settle out on the soil. Once the southern hemisphere develops further, we will likely see the same thing happening there.

I'd like to see links to the actual data used here, and there's no indication of when the measurements were made.

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Please note that Mr. Natan owns First Vine Wine Imports and Sales, an importer of French wines. That said, I agree that it would helpful if the article could link to the primary data in support of the lay article - Mr. Natan's point re what the THQ value tells us is worth investigating before drawing your own conclusions. Here is the primary literature, free at the BioMed Central journal, Chemistry Central Journal: http://www.journal.chemistrycentral.com/content/pdf/1752-153X-2-22.pdf
While scientific lay articles such as this one from NBR can sometimes be misleading as Mr. Natan pointed out, the CCJ authors of the study clearly acknowledge that the data were based on parameters related to longterm, daily consumption of 1/3 of a 750 mL bottle of wine and concluded that their findings indicate that this rate of consumption of wines from the identified countries, "may present detrimental health concerns through a lifetime based upon the metal content alone".
All of this said, the NBR article is reasonably well written concerning the science; for a truly dreadful sensationalist attempt, see: http://www.barchester.com/Healthcare-News/Wine-drinking-linked-to-Parkin... The title is sensationalistic and twists/spins what the CCJ authors concluded - in other words, putting words in the CCJ authors' mouths - this offering is scientific lay journalism at its worst.

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Another thing that is forgotten here is that many of the Metals stated are key elements for the healthly production of both grapes and vineyard. The likes of Copper, Manganese, and Zinc play a key role not only in the well being of the plant but also the reproduction.

Many of the soils in the Northern hemisphere are more acidic thus the intake of these nutrients will happen more freely.

These metals naturally occur in both the plant and the grape and wine being a product of the grape you will naturally have it in the wine.

I think many of the problems today are that people, including researchers, are becomeing "over sensetive", next thing we will discover is that white bread is toxic and we should only eat rye bread

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Did the study include any US wines?

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According to the Washington Post, no US wines were included in the study.

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We hear about the wines from abroad what about the wines here in the good USA? We need to hear about this as I myself drink wines from the USA.

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I may add that I do support mr Natan's view.
This is nice science for chemistry and or medical research but has no value whatsoever on our daily life.As the original article already explains; what needs tobe done first is to see how and why these findings occured.interesting, but most likely not related to the production process or distribution at all.

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And what oxygen deprived planet did you say you were from?

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Jesus, what's a wine consumer to think. Wine is good for my heart, but may give me Parkinson's disease.
Before this seemingly sensationalistic position becomes front page news in mainstream rags, has it been "empirically" defined as valid and as a (potentially) genuine threat?
As to the "lifetime" consumption theory, well hello(!); a third of a 750 ml. bottle (~8 oz.) is not an unreasonable consuption rate for a lot of wine drinkers.
And why no mention of US wines or perhaps more interesting, the burgeoning UK wine industry? Have the "researchers" looked in their own backyards?
This issue begs immediate confirmation before we put more than half the world's wine industry out of business!

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"Have the researchers looked in their own backyards?"

The researchers are based in London, UK. I shudder to think what UK vine grown/produced wines lurk in London cellars...

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Diet soda, canola oil, cosmetics, mowing one's lawn, riding a bicycle without a helmut, grilled hot dogs, breast implants, bacon, breathing... what isn't hazardous to one's health. I have no idea how I have survived 66 years

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Thanks to the information society, we are exposed to 10 times more facts -- and 100 times more BS.

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OK so some research was done, wonder who paid for it. WHO (world health organisation) your turn to test and at least come up with some standards for all to follow not just individual countries regarding production of wine. In the mean time life is too short so may as well enjoy it, drink wine.

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Any serious scientist - and the ones mentioned in the article seemed to have omitted that part - will tell you that a "study" on 15 wines, even from each country, does not even amount to a margin of error in any serious research. It is a rather sweeping generalization to draw (headline) from highly inconsequential experiment and any respectable publication should be smart enough not recycle highly contentuos information without properly handling it. I live in a jurisdiction where all the beverage alcohol is tested on a dozen of parameters before it hits the shelf - a novel and as I am aware rather unique arrangement - including the metals against the government guidelines and the rejection rate is very low, around 1% for all failures, most of which are labelling incompliances. I hope any or any number of European producers who have time and resources take your publication to task for propagating inrresponsible, misleading, potentially damaging and libelous information.

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Naughton and Petroczi should have confirmed these findings by actually quantitating the levels of heavy metals in the said wines. All they have at this point is a theory based on their calculations from "data published in scientific journals" (whatever that means) and have really proved nothing. Journalists: please refrain from publishing articles like this unless you have a solid understanding of the scientific method.

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Having worked in several European countries as a "Flyingwinemaker" it's common to see a lot of old equipment that's been passed down from generation to generation, most using brass in their construction. This is a major source of Copper in wines and it's easily measurable in the wines after it's been made. This is one example of the metals that can be introduced into the wine by older winemaking methods.

New equipment being used around the world these days, and it needs to be said now in parts of Europe, utilise stainless steel predominantly in their construction, which has been shown to be iinert in most winemaking situations.

While metals can certainly come from the vineyard, I'd suggest that the most likely source of metals getting into wine will be from the wineries themselves and a shift to more modern equipment and winemaking practices will go a long way to correcting this issue.

Ironically Europe has some of the toughest standards in the world for imported wines, particularly for heavy metals, which by the sounds of things if their own wines had to conform to these standards then many wouldn't be saleable.

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Zinc at least is not a heavy metal, being the lightest in its column in the periodic table. Cadmium, and mercury, its bigger brothers certainly are, and are quite poisonous, especaially mercury. Zinc is non-toxic except in large doses, and indeed zinc lozenges have been shown very effective against the common cold. Deficiency is quite common, causing brain fog and other neurological and immune system problems. One sign of zinc deficiency which we can take as a warning is white spots on the fingernails.

I wonder a little about a study that includes as a problem an essentially non-poisonous essential nutrient that many are deficient in. Zinc can easily be a problem for those living near mines and smelting facilities, but for most of us it seems nuts to me to call this a problem.

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"I shudder to think what UK vine grown/produced wines lurk in London cellars..." Fear not once you have had the NV Sellafield Muscadet Ice Wine (mechanical freezing is permitted), your cares about t'other stuff' will fly away.........

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Stuff it -- you have to die of something.
"Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die"

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What a lot of nit-pickers! No doubt, many of them worried about their wine-sourced mansions and holiday homes.

I say, well done, to the article's authors. We are now alerted. Thanks.

And, if course there are accuracy issues in journalism dealing with science, or munitions, or bio-weapons, or radioactivity; that is the nature of the beast. But if we left it to scientists to warn us:
(a) The text would be jargon-ridden and incomprehensible;
(b) If the subject matter threatened grants or salaries, it would be suppressed;
(c) The provider of facilities or finance would prevent publication.
(d) Theory would be presented as fact;
(e) And as with the AGW debacle, electoral democratic consensus would be bypassed in favour of 'scientific consensus', an oxymoron if ever there was one.

Having worked alongside a wide variety of scientists over 45 years, I can honestly say the vast majority were devoid of integrity and suffered from elite delusionism; not the sort of people I would like to rely on for my information. Readers might just dwell on GM foods, biowarfare, food contaminants, and the vast range of substances killing so many people as we speak... all the product of nice scientists.

You science journos; keep up the great work. tonyryan43@gmail.com Australia

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I’m not sure what to do with this information. On the one hand, I love drinking wine, and believe that there are beneficial health effects due to compounds in it such as resveratrol, etc. On the other hand, the research says that there are many wines out there that contain too many metal ions, and could give me Parkinson’s, or just be downright bad for me, from an EPA standpoint. What’s a person to do, if the bottle of wine doesn’t report the metal ion content?! For me, right now, I’ll keeping drinking wine. Austin
http://drughealth.blogspot.com/

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