Most baby food contains toxic ingredients, according to the results of a new study. These ingredients can have significant effects on children.
Researchers from the Healthy Babies Bright Futures organization tested 168 baby foods from 61 brands. The scientists measured the baby foods for four heavy metals known to alter the developing brain and erode the child’s IQ: arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. Even in trace amounts, these heavy metals can have detrimental effects.
They found that 95 percent of the baby foods tested contained one or more toxic heavy metal, and that 26 percent of the baby foods tested had all four. Forty percent had three heavy metals, 21 percent had two heavy metals, and 8 percent contained one heavy metal. Only 5 percent of baby foods tested – or nine foods – had zero heavy metals.
The researchers looked at the type of heavy metals found in each baby food. Lead was present in 94 percent of the baby foods tested, cadmium was in 75 percent, 73 percent of baby foods contained arsenic, and 32 percent contained mercury.
About Toxins in Baby Food and their Effects
Rice cereal is a leading source of arsenic exposure to babies, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but other non-rice and whole grain brands of infant cereals can contain the heavy metal. This is because, unlike most of the other crops they grow, farmers grow rice in water-flooded fields. The roots of the rice plant readily absorb the arsenic from the soil and water; the plant eventually stores the arsenic in the grains of rice.
The levels of arsenic in rice varies depending largely on the geographic area the crop was grown. About 40 percent of the U.S. rice crop originates from Arkansas, according to the Arkansas Farm Bureau, and California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Missouri, and Florida grow the rest. Research shows high arsenic levels in the rice grown in these states; Today’s Dietician attributes the presence of arsenic to the area’s history of using arsenic-containing pesticide on cotton crops there.
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) analyzed 11 years of information gathered by the FDA, and found detectable levels of lead in 20 percent of the 2,164 baby foods they sampled. Fruit juices such as grape and apple, root vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes, and teething biscuits contained the highest levels of the toxic metal.
Lead poisoning can damage the brain and nervous system, slow growth, and cause behavior and learning problems, hearing problems, headaches, and anemia, according to Stanford Children’s Health.
Cadmium can cause kidney and liver damage in children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also references studies that show that younger animals absorb more cadmium than adults do, and that the young are more vulnerable to bone loss and weaker bones from cadmium exposure.
Exposure to even small amounts of mercury can cause serious health problems. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that exposure to mercury is a threat to a child in early life because of its toxic effects on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes, and on nervous, digestive and immune systems. Specifically, mercury adversely affects an infant’s growing brain and developing nervous system. Mercury impairs neurological development, negatively affecting a child’s attention, memory, language, and visual spatial and fine motor skills.
Providing a child with a varied, natural diet can reduce his or her risk of developmental and health problems associated with toxic ingredients.