95% of tested baby foods contained toxic metals. Here’s what you need to know
Of 168 baby foods tested in the study, only nine were found not to contain one of these four metals: arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury
There are toxic metals in 95% of baby foods tested in a recent study, and it could affect your child’s health, according to NBC News.
Of 168 baby foods tested in the study, only nine were found not to contain one of these four metals: arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury, NBC reported. One in four of the foods contained all of them, while 95% contained at least one of the toxic metals.
The study was commissioned by Healthy Babies Bright Futures, an alliance of scientists, nonprofit organizations, and donors who work to reduce neurotoxic chemical exposure in early childhood, according to CNN.
How was the study conducted?
The tested foods were selected by volunteer parents, who were asked to buy popular baby food brands from local stores as well as online, according to NBC.
Sixty-one brands and 13 types of food were tested, including infant formula, teething biscuits, fruit juices and cereals, NBC reported.
Scientists examined each of the food products and tested them for the presence of arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury, according to NBC.
What were the study’s findings?
A total of 95% of all products tested were found to contain at least one of the four toxic metals, NBC reported.
One of the biggest culprits that researchers pointed to were rice-based products, according to People magazine.
“Rice is a leading source of arsenic exposure for young children,” the study said, according to People.
“Puffs and other snacks made with rice flour contain arsenic, lead and cadmium at relatively high levels compared to other baby foods,” study authors wrote, according to People, while “teething biscuits and rice rusks often contain arsenic, lead, and cadmium.”
Rice often absorbs arsenic (which is commonly used as a pesticide) as it grows, according to NBC.
Carrots and sweet potatoes, other common baby food ingredients, are also high-risk items: as root vegetables, they gain more exposure to arsenic in the same way as rice, NBC reported.
The other product that researchers cautioned against were fruit juices, which can contain both lead and arsenic, according to CNN.
Why do these baby foods contain toxic metals?
Heavy metals are a natural part of the soil, according to Fox News. However, these metals are found at higher levels in fields that have been contaminated with fertilizers and pesticides.
For this reason, even switching to organic or homemade foods will not reduce chemical exposure, according to Fox.
The FDA has attempted to regulate the amounts of heavy metals in food in the past, but the authors of this new study say that they haven’t done enough, according to NBC.
Nearly 90% of the baby foods tested did not have guidance or standards from the FDA on a maximum safe amount of heavy metals, the study concluded, according to NBC.
“When FDA acts, companies respond. We need the FDA to use their authority more effectively, and much more quickly, to reduce toxic heavy metals in baby foods,” said Jane Houlihan, an author of the study and research director for Healthy Babies Better Futures, according to CNN.
Why does it matter?
Studies have shown that exposure to toxic metals can be damaging to young infants and children’s growing brains, CNN reported.
“Even in the trace amounts found in food, these contaminants can alter the developing brain and erode a child’s IQ,” the study said, according to CNN. “The impacts add up with each meal or snack a baby eats.”
“The heavy metals interfere with the way the brain is supposed to get wired,” Charlotte Brody, one of the report authors and the national director of the HBBF, told NBC. “Everything we can do to drop the levels of these chemicals that kids are exposed to just gives them a better chance of learning.”
What can parents do?
While the study authors acknowledged that the findings “raised concerns,” they urged parents to “choose to act,” according to Fox News.
The study suggested five actions that parents can take to reduce their children’s exposure to harmful chemicals.
- Replace puff snacks and other rice snacks with rice-free products.
- Replace teething biscuits and rice rusks with alternatives like frozen banana or chilled cucumber.
- Replace infant rice cereals with multi-grain or oatmeal.
- Replace fruit juice with tap water.
- Replace a diet based solely on carrots and sweet potatoes with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables (which can include carrots and sweet potatoes).