Baby foods in the United States contain heavy metals that could affect and damage the brain development of babies. This is according to a study commissioned by Healthy Babies Bright Futures and published today.
Healthy Babies Bright Futures is an alliance made up of scientists, non-profit organizations, and donors who are advocating for the reduction of neurotoxic chemical exposures during the first months of life.
There were 168 kinds of baby foods from various manufacturers in the U.S. that were tested. About 95% of the tested products contained lead. Around 75% contained cadmium, 73% contained arsenic, and 32% contained mercury. About one-fourth of the foods tested had all four heavy metals.
The study also revealed that only nine foods were free of heavy metal content. About 40% of the baby foods tested contained three different heavy metals.
“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,” said the report.
The findings are similar to results of a study made by the Food and Drug Administration. According to the study, 33 out of 39 baby foods tested for one or more of the same metals found in this newly published study.
Based on the tests, fruit juices, sweet potatoes, and various rice-based products had the highest risks of containing heavy metals.
“These popular baby foods are not only high in inorganic arsenic, the most toxic form of arsenic, but also are nearly always contaminated with all four toxic metals,” the report adds.
To minimize the ingestion of these toxic heavy metals, the study suggests that parents should skip snacks made with rice flour. They should find healthier alternatives that are rich in nutrients and low in metals. Suggestions include apples, grapes, barley, and many others.
In place of juices, parents are urged to give babies water or pureed fruits.
Past studies have revealed how even the lowest level of arsenic exposure can affect the neurodevelopment of a baby. An example of this is a 2004 study that focused on Bangladeshi children. These children were exposed to arsenic found in drinking water. Due to the exposure, the study discovered that they scored much lower on intellectual tests compared to those were not exposed.
The new report is pushing for the urgent action of both the FDA and the baby food companies. It also recommended that the FDA “establish and finalize health-protective standards for heavy metals, prioritizing foods that offer the greatest opportunity to reduce exposure, considering additive effects of the multiple metals detected in foods, and explicitly protecting against neurodevelopmental impacts.”
The study author and research director for Healthy Babies Better Futures, Jane Houlihan, has also shared her thoughts on the matter via a statement.
“When the 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 Houlihan.