Lead contamination has been found in a wide variety of baby foods. Shifting through 11 years of data, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) detected lead in 20 percent of over 2,100 product samples of baby food.
The environmental advocacy organization discovered lead in various fruit juices, root vegetables like carrots, cookies, and teething biscuits. Most significantly, lead was found in 89 percent of all grape juice samples. While the baby food contained only small amounts of lead, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued several warnings in the past that indicate no level of lead is safe, especially for children.
Exposure to lead can be detrimental to the development of a growing child. Even at low levels, the bluish, toxic metal can lower IQ, cause behavioral issues, and promote cardiovascular problems.
“Lead can have a number of effects on children and it’s especially harmful during critical windows of development,” said Dr. Aparna Bole, a pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, as cited by CNN. “The largest burden that we often think about is neurocognitive that can occur even at low levels of lead exposure.”
Unfortunately, a separate report released by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year estimated that 5 percent of children consume at least six micrograms of lead daily. Food was determined to be the major source of lead exposure in 66 percent of the children.
The EDF report published on Thursday revealed that baby food versions of apple juice, grape juice, and carrots have higher lead levels than the regular, adult versions. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) contends lead gets into food by way of contaminated soil, the EDF is not convinced.
“I can’t explain it other than I assume baby food is processed more,” said Tom Neltner, chemicals policy director with the EDF, as reported by CNN.
In response to the EDF’s analysis, the FDA has promised to investigate the issue and work with manufacturers to place even tougher restrictions on lead levels in baby food. The EDF investigation did not specifically name the makers of the baby food samples.
Current FDA guidelines for lead levels in food were last updated in 1993. Nelter hopes the new report will encourage government health authorities to revise the standards based on the most recent research of lead exposure in food. Even with the report seemingly placing blame on baby food processing, Nelter admits more testing needs to be done before the actual sources can be identified.
While aimed specifically at the baby food industry and FDA, the EDF does not recommend avoiding certain baby foods altogether. However, the organization thinks parents should talk with a pediatrician about the dangers of lead exposure.
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