Toxic heavy metals damaging to your baby’s brain development are likely in the baby food you are feeding your infant, according to a new investigation published Thursday.
The study tested 168 brands of American-made baby food, and found that 95 percent of the sampled jars contain lead, 73 percent of them included arsenic, 75 percent had cadmium and 32 percent included mercury. A fourth of them contained all four heavy metals in the same sampled jars.
The results mimicked a previous study by the Food and Drug Administration that found one or more of the same metals in 33 of 39 types of baby food tested.
Scientists believe increased exposure to such toxins can erode a child’s developing brain, damaging their IQ.
“Even in the trace amounts found in food, these contaminants can alter the developing brain and erode a child’s IQ. The impacts add up with each meal or snack a baby eats,” the report said.
Among the highest-risk foods are fruit juices, as well as rice-based products, including puff snacks and rice cereals, since rice is particularly effective at absorbing arsenic, a common pesticide, as it grows. Four of seven infant rice cereals tested contained inorganic arsenic, which is the more toxic form of the metal, in levels exceeding the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed limit of 100 parts per billion.
Sweet potatoes and carrots are also big culprits since they are root crops.
Healthy Babies Bright Futures hopes its finding will encourage the US Food and Drug Administration to set health-based limits on trace chemicals, helping to protect babies’ brains from exposure through meals.
Thursday’s report states that of 10 of 13 baby food types tested, there is no FDA guidance on safe limits for toxic heavy metals.
Though experts agree that no level of lead is safe, one in five baby foods tested had more than 10 times the 1-ppb limit of lead that is endorsed by public health advocates.
In the meantime, families don’t have to wait to offer their kids safer alternatives to foods at high risk of toxic metal contamination. Parents can opt for rice-free snacks and non-rice cereals, such as oatmeals and multi-grain cereals, to cut back on one source of heavy metal exposure. Ensuring kids eat a variety of vegetables beyond the common sweet potato and carrot purees also helps, and swapping teething biscuits for frozen bananas can make a difference. Alternatives like these have 80 percent lower levels of the metals, on average, than the riskier foods.