Beer lovers beware: Researchers in Germany have found traces of arsenic in hundreds of tested beer samples. Many beers are filtered with diatomaceous earth, a mined sedimentary rock that contains iron, metals and can contain arsenic and makes the beverages clear. The beers tested were found to have levels of arsenic, some at twice the amount allowed in drinking water.

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Very precise testing methods having been developed in recent years, giving researchers the ability to pinpoint the chemicals and toxins that are present in beer and wine more easily than ever before. Germany has the highest standards for beer of any country, with a purity law dating back to the 16th century. Under the law, known as the Reinheitsgebot, careful evaluation is made of the beer’s sole ingredients — water, hops and malt.

Chemists have closely evaluated those three ingredients, and now their attention has turned toward the diatomaceous earth filtering process. Diatomaceous earth has been used to naturally filter both beer and wine for hundreds of years, made up of porous diatom fossils that naturally suck out cloudy matter from liquids. On April 7, researcher Mehmet Coelhan of Germany’s Weihenstephan research center announced that they found high concentrations of extractable arsenic in the diatomaceous earth, causing 360 beers to have traces of arsenic.

The arsenic content for the drinking standard for water in the United States is just 10 parts per billion, and some of the tested beers ranked in at 25 parts per billion. While this is still miniscule, the researchers are unsure of the health effects on heavy beer drinkers, and plan to further research arsenic content in diatomaceous earth used in filtering beer and wine.


Images ©Guy Renard 25 and ©k.ivoutin