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U.K. researchers have found that red and white wines from most European nations carry potentially dangerous doses of at least seven heavy metals.

A biomolecular scientist Declan P. Naughton, PhD, and Andrea Petroczi of Kingston University, London have calculated that a one glass of even the most contaminated wine would not be poisonous, however drinking just one glass of wine a day, being a common habit in Europe and the Americas, could turn out to be very hazardous.

The scientists calculated "target hazard quotients" (THQs) for wines from 15 countries in Europe, South America, and the Middle East. The measure was designed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine safe levels of frequent, long- term exposure to various chemicals. A THQ over 1 indicates a health risk.
Typical wines were found to have a THQ ranging from 50 to 200 per glass. Some wines even had THQs up to 300. Just to compare, THQs that raised concerns about heavy-metal contamination of seafood typically range between 1 and 5.

The researchers wish the regulatory authorities looked at this and the wine industry found ways to remove these metals from wine or at least found out where the metals are coming from and tried to prevent it.
The metal ions that accounted for most of the contamination were vanadium, copper, and manganese. But four other metals with THQs above 1 also were found: zinc, nickel, chromium, and lead. Some 30 other metal ions were measured in the wines, but THQs could not be calculated because safe daily levels for these metals are not known.

A behavioral neurotoxicologist Bernard Weiss, PhD, professor of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester, N.Y., who was not involved in the study is especially worried about the long-term impact of the specific metal, manganese, as the accumulation of this metal has been linked to Parkinson's disease.

Only wines from the following three countries had safe of heavy metals: Italy, Brazil, and Argentina. Based on the maximum THQs for wines from each nation, the worst offenders are:

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

Hungary and Slovakia had maximum potential THQ values over 350. France, Austria, Spain, Germany, and Portugal -- nations that import large quantities of wine to the U.S. -- had maximum potential THQ values over 100 while Argentinean and Italian wines did not have significant maximum THQ values.

The researchers say that besides the amount of alcohol, each bottle of wine should label the amounts of heavy metals too, so that the buyers could vote by choice whether they want the heavy metals or not as not all the wines have them.

Possible sources of the metals in wines include the soil of the vineyards in which the wine grapes are grown, the fungicides sprayed on the grapes, and possible contaminants in the yeasts used to ferment the wine.

The researchers did not include North American wines in their analysis because they had no data of the heavy metals in the wines. In their study, they didn't directly measure heavy metals but used data published in scientific journals to calculate THQs.

They say that would like to have a look at the US data to see whether national health databases can link health problems to daily wine consumption, and whether wine drinkers have higher concentrations of heavy metals in their bodies than teetotalers do.

Drinking red wine has been previously linked to health benefits due to the presence of the antioxidant compounds but these new finding puts a major question mark over the protective benefits of red wine.


Wow! I was so glad to see Argentina in the list of "good" wines because I drink a lot of Malbec wine from there.