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Health Highlights: Sept. 19, 2012

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

FDA Testing Arsenic Levels in Rice

There's no evidence so far to suggest that rice sold in the United States has unsafe levels of arsenic, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The agency is analyzing arsenic levels in 1,200 samples of rice products bought in grocery stores, including short- and long-grain rice, cereals, drinks and rice cakes, the Associated Press reported.

On Wednesday, the FDA released the results from 200 of the samples. The agency's study will not be completed until the end of the year.

The FDA is being asked by consumer groups to set federal guidance on allowable levels of arsenic in rice. Currently, there is no federal standard for how much arsenic is allowed in food.

It's believed that rice contains higher levels of arsenic than most other foods because it is grown in water on the ground, optimal conditions for arsenic to be absorbed in the rice, the AP reported.

Two forms of arsenic -- organic and inorganic -- are present in water, soil, air and food. Organic arsenic passes through the body quickly and is essentially harmless, according to the FDA. Inorganic arsenic, which is found in some pesticides and insecticides, can be toxic and may pose a cancer risk if consumed at high levels or over a long period, the agency said.

The FDA's findings from the first 200 samples were released after Consumers Union released its own study of 223 samples of rice products and called for federal standards on arsenic in rice. Both studies found similar levels of arsenic in the products, but there is no way to say how dangerous these levels are without a federal government standard, the AP reported.

Consumers shouldn't stop eating rice, but should eat a diverse diet just in case, according to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg .

"Our advice right now is that consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains -- not only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food," she said, the AP reported.


Mother-to-Daughter Uterus Transplants a World-First

The world's first mother-to-daughter uterus transplants were conducted last weekend by Swedish surgeons.

The transplants on the two women -- meant to help them have babies -- involved more than 10 surgeons and were completed without any complications, Agence France-Presse reported.

"One of the women had previously had her own uterus removed after undergoing treatment for cervical cancer. The other woman was born without a uterus. Both women are in their 30s," according to a statement from Gothenburg University and Sahlgrenska University Hospital.

The two women will have to wait one year before undergoing in vitro fertilization with their own frozen embryos, AFP reported.

The first successful uterine transplant was conducted in Turkey in 2011.

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Posted: September 2012