When it comes to beer, there’s plenty of appeal — “It tastes good!” “It makes me feel warm inside!*” “I don’t feel so bad about whatsisface dumping me anymore!” and so on and so forth. And then there’s that clear, sparkling liquid, unsullied by nary a speck of cloudiness. But the filtration process that gives beer that clarity could be the reason researchers are finding arsenic in hundreds of samples of the stuff.
NPR reports that the German researchers found that some beers had levels of arsenic more than twice than what’s allowed in drinking water. It isn’t news to the experts, however, as they point out that the filtering agent involved, diatomaceous earth, is a natural product mined from the earth. And as such, a natural metal like arsenic could show up in there.
“We already knew that,” a professor in enology at the University of California, Davis told NPR. “The levels shouldn’t be alarming, because it’s the kind of thing you see in dust or air.”
So why all the buzz about it now? Testing methods are better than what they used to be, allowing lower levels to be detected than in the past. It’s not just beer, either — the same filtering process can be used in wines and other drinks as well to strain out plant matter and keep things sparkly.
As long as people are drinking more water than they do beer — which might not be the case for your Uncle Georgie — things should probably be okay. The trouble is, there’s no standard in the U.S. nor in Europe regarding arsenic. That’s been an issue recently for arsenic found in rice and fruit juice.
In the meantime, scientists are researching alternate methods for filtering beer and trying to figure out if the amount of arsenic involved with diatomaceous earth is something to worry about. For now, it seems you can enjoy that clear beer with a clear conscience. Everything in moderation and besides — heavy metals might make their way into beer anyway.
“The sense that if you didn’t use diatomaceous earth, there would be no heavy metals in beer at all is a little out of touch with nature,” as one expert put it to NPR.
*As always, please drink responsibly and don’t blame yourself for his soullessness and apparent lack of any human emotion.