There's no shame in loving a budget bottle of wine, but drinking it could impact your health. Popular, budget-friendly wines brands like Charles Shaw, Menage à Trois, and Franzia can contain up to five times the maximum amount of arsenic deemed safe for drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), reports CBS.
The cheaper the wine, the more arsenic it's likely to contain—a major buzzkill, considering arsenic is a known carcinogen that's highly toxic. Its effects have been compared to what happens when you smoke cigarettes, the damage compounding over time.
The bad news comes from wine-whistleblower Kevin Hicks, who spent 15 years in the wine biz before launching BeverageGrades, a Denver-based lab that analyzes wine. (Unlike food and non-alcoholic beverages, which are highly regulated by the feds, the government doesn't require much disclosure on alcohol. Some states, like California, impose their own laws on local manufacturers.)
When Hicks tested more than 1,300 bottles of wine, about 1 in 4 had higher levels of arsenic than the EPA permits in drinking water.
Because the EPA's arsenic standards apply only to water (and people drink less wine that water) researchers don't know exactly how the amount of arsenic found in wine could affect the body, or whether you're at risk if you've been drinking Franzia by the box for years.
For what it's worth, arsenic levels in wines tested differed by vintage, variety, and brand. (There was no consistency.) But overall, "the lower the price of wine on a per-liter basis, the higher the amount of arsenic," Hicks told CBS.
Now, a class action lawsuit is being filed in the state of California, accusing more than 20 winemakers and distributors of promoting harmful products. Until everything shakes out, find a clean wine on BeverageGrades's safe list. And when you splurge on a safe, but slightly pricier bottle? Consider it an investment in your health.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.