SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Toxic metals damaging to an infant's brain development were found in 95% of tested baby foods, according to a Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF) study published on Thursday.
Of the 168 foods tested nationwide, 94% contained lead, 73% contained arsenic, 75% contained cadmium and 32% contained mercury. The number of baby foods containing all four metals came in at 26%, the study showed.
Food brands involved in the testing included Gerber, Plum Organics, Beech-Nut, Enfamil, Parent's Choice, Ella's Kitchen, Sprout, Similac, Earth's Best, Up&Up, Happy Family, and 50 other brands that can be found here in the original report.
Types of foods range from formula and juices to puff snacks, teething biscuits, rice cereals, meat jars, fruits and veggies.
Retailers these foods were bought from for testing include Amazon, Walmart, Target, Safeway, Kroger, Dollar Tree, Whole Foods, and 10 other stores also listed in the original report.
The investigation resulted in these findings.
- That 95%. All but nine of the 168 tested foods contained at least one of the four metals. A total of 87% contained two or more.
- Babies are exposed to these toxic chemicals daily. All four metals are developmental neurotoxins that are linked to early life IQ loss and can damage a baby's developing brain and nervous system.
- For 148 of the 168 foods (or 88%), the investigation found that the FDA has failed to set enforceable limits or guidance on maximum safe amounts of the metals.
- Which leads to recommended limits often being exceeded. For example, Arsenic exceeded the FDA's recommended limit in four of seven infant rice cereals tested, the study says.
- Popular baby foods estimated to pose greater risks are among those that lack specific limits for heavy metals. The analysis found by Abt Associates — a toxicology and economic research group — found that children between 0 and 24 months of age lose more than 11 million IQ points from exposure to arsenic and lead. HBBF says during the first two years of life, American children lose four times more IQ points from arsenic contamination than lead. Also, rice-based foods contribute one-fifth of the total estimated IQ loss.
- Additional testing detected another neurotoxic contaminant — perchlorate. Perchlorate disrupts thyroid functions crucial to brain development, HBBF says, and was found 19 of 25 foods tested. The toxin has been linked to IQ loss among children born to mothers with thyroid dysfunction, who are more vulnerable to perchlorate toxicity.
What can parents do?
HBBF's study listed alternatives to some of the contaminated foods.
- Snacks made with rice flour can be replaced with foods like apples, unsweetened applesauce, bananas, beans, cheese, grapes, barley with diced veggies, hard-boiled eggs, peaches and yogurt.
- Teething biscuits and rice rusks, which often contain arsenic, lead and cadmium, can be swapped out for a frozen banana, a peeled and chilled cucumber, or a clean, cold wet washcloth or spoon.
- Non-rice alternatives contain on average 84% less inorganic arsenic than leading brands of infant rice cereal, the study says.
- Fruit juices can be replaced with tap water.
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