Category Archives: Daily works

Arsenic Pollution in Rice: A World Problem

This week I read several papers about arsenic pollution in rice at the global level. I saw that the arsenic level in some parts of the Pearl River Delta Area in China is quite high, which is one of the major rice cultivation areas in China. The rice grown there can feed millions of people. However, the Chinese government never mentioned such a thing. Arsenic pollution is becoming more severe in recent years but most governments are not willing to expose it to the public and are not willing to take action. It is because they are afraid of potential costs and panic if they take action. Not only arsenic but also other heavy metals are included. Therefore, we should provide some reports and give suggestions to show the negative results the pollution will cost, which is the concept of environmental risk assessment. One impressive method I am thinking of is to quantify the potential economic loss caused by arsenic contamination, such as the pressure on the health care system and agriculture, and compare such loss with the potential costs of proper policy implementation. I have never thought it as a severe problem until I came here and studied all these issues.

Here I want to relate to my previous rice planting experience: Rice planting is the daily activity of farmers. If they work under the arsenic contamination condition, the arsenic can easily enter their bodies and cause chronical problems.

Internship at IRRI

I work at the Sustainable Impact in Rice-based Systems Platform under the guidance of Dr. Varunseelan Murugaiyan and Dr. Peter Sprang. Since Dr. Sprang will not be back until July 15, I study with Dr. Murugaiyan about environmental pollution in agriculture, especially the arsenic contamination in rice.
Arsenic is a widely distributed metal existing in organic and inorganic forms with various toxicity on the Earth. Arsenic pollution has already been a severe environmental issue all over the world, since arsenic will pollute the groundwater and soil, and they are the fundamental sources of nutrients for crops and people’s daily lives. If people consume food like rice contaminated by arsenic for a long time, it will lead to chronic diseases including cardiovascular and lung problems. My current work is mostly collecting data and information about the current situation of arsenic pollution all over the world, especially in Southeast Asia, which locates a lot of major rice cultivation countries. Specifically, I am comparing the national limitation of the arsenic level of each country with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) standard for arsenic contamination, and comparing the average arsenic contamination in rice in these countries. The differences among them indicate the potential difficulties of measuring the actual arsenic pollution since the arsenic level in a country might surpass the FAO standard but meet the national standard. I try to look at some policies that can be implemented to reduce arsenic pollution, and reveal the importance of such policies for the whole society, including the consequences in agriculture and the health care system.
Dr. Murugaiyan said that I am the first student in this department to focus on the policy side since their concentration is on biology and chemistry.
After Dr. Sprang comes, I will be mostly learning about key sustainability tools, such as the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) standard and performance indicators. I might also be able to explore the market potential for rice with a sustainability or quality mark claim in the Chinese market. I feel quite excited about that as well.

Arsenic affected countries of the world with intensity shown by the size of the plots (see Table 1, Table 2). Note that South Asian and South American regions are the worst affected (source: Ali et al., 2019a and references therein and web sources (;