Two words that shouldn’t go together: Rice … and lead

What do you think of when you think of rice? One of the major grains that helps feed the world? An essential food staple for billions who often can afford little else?

What about arsenic and, now, lead … sometimes at levels known to pose a “particular risk for young children”? Especially disturbing — as research from the American Chemical Society has found — is that some of the highest levels of lead are found in rice-containing baby foods.

This, clearly, is about so much more than sometimes lax environmental and agricultural regulations in major rice-exporting countries like Taiwan and China. As this kind of news from the world of globalized food indicates, environmental problems anywhere can become health threats everywhere (and this extends to health threats from drought, ocean acidification, disruptions to the nitrogen cycle, climate change and much more).

This is not a problem any one of us will solve by resolving to eat only organic domestic rice or to skip rice altogether. This is the kind of news that proves that anyone’s problem is eventually everyone’s problem.