News is circulating about a report showing there’s a detectable level of lead in nearly a quarter of baby food found in the United States. That might sound panic-worthy, but as experts explain, there’s actually no reason to freak out.
For the report, scientists with the nonprofit organization The Environmental Defense Fund analyzed 11 years of data from the Food and Drug Administration. They found that many foods—including baby foods—are sources of lead.
Specifically, lead was found in 20 percent of baby food samples (compared to 14 percent of other foods) and eight different types of baby foods had detectable levels of lead in more than 40 percent of samples. Lead was found in 89 percent of grape juice samples, 67 percent of mixed fruit juices, and 55 percent of apple juices, while 86 percent of sweet potato baby foods and 43 percent of baby foods that contained carrots also had lead.
Lead was also detected in nearly 65 percent of arrowroot cookies, which are commonly used when babies are teething, and 47 percent of teething biscuits. The researchers also discovered that some baby food versions of food—notably, apple and grape juice, and carrots—were more likely to contain lead than their counterparts for grown-ups.
Still, experts don’t want you to worry. Here’s why.
Lead is a substance found in the environment in small amounts, and it can show up in dust, dirt, and drinking water, among other sources. Yes, it is technically toxic. But since it can be in soil, it may get absorbed by plants and end up in the food you eat—with no catastrophic negative health effects and no way to prevent this from happening.
“There’s no way you can assure that any crop is entirely lead-free,” Ruth Kava, Ph.D., senior nutrition fellow at the American Council on Science and Health, tells SELF, calling the EDF’s report “fear-mongering.” “Also, our technical ability to find all kinds of compounds in our food is so very sensitive that we can find levels that have absolutely no relevance to human health,” she says. “I’ll bet that’s the case here.”
Kava also points out that the survey covered a broad range of time—2003 to 2013—and things may have changed during that time. “How do we know that the foods in the current marketplace still have lead? Were the levels higher in ’03 than in ’13?” she says. “Those are important questions to ask.”
Overall, these findings don’t change much of anything. Peter Grinspoon, M.D., a primary care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells SELF that it’s important to remember that lead didn’t just suddenly started appearing in baby foods—it’s probably been there all along, people just weren’t aware of it.
For example, candy should have no more than 100 parts per billion of lead, according to the FDA, while bottled water is capped off at five parts per billion. Currently, fruit juice has a limit of 50 parts per billion. The FDA says it regulates this in the industry through routine and targeted testing.
Although according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no known level of lead that is considered safe for people to consume, that doesn’t automatically mean that consuming any amount of lead will cause worrisome health effects. Something like the tragic and ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, involves lead levels far higher than federal regulations allow.
Chronic exposure to lead has been linked to damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, and learning and behavioral problems, but those are extreme cases. It’s “a lot less common now” to see children who have health problems as a result of lead exposure from something like regular baby food rather than a crisis like what’s happening in Flint, Dr. Grinspoon says. While the consequences of overexposure to lead can be “pretty severe,” he notes that the report doesn’t give a lot of guidance—the researchers didn’t say which brands were more likely to have higher levels of lead, or even how high those levels are.
Consuming lead through paint chips and water can give children a more concentrated dose of lead than eating trace amounts in food, Daniel Ganjian, M.D., a board certified pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells SELF. “The truth is, in America we are pretty good at testing the food,” he says. “Even if it has a little bit of lead, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to affect you. We’re likely talking about small levels that are detected. Those are not clinically significant at small levels.” In fact, even with the levels of lead in food, lead paint is still the most common source of lead exposure in children, Aimin Chen, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, tells SELF.
Kathleen Fairfield, M.D., Dr.P.H., a physician-scientist at Maine Medical Center with a background in nutritional epidemiology, tells SELF that pediatricians regularly screen patients for blood lead levels, so a child’s doctor will likely be aware if they’re being exposed to too much lead. “That can help reassure parents about prior and ongoing exposure,” she says. Ashanti Woods, M.D., a pediatrician at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center, tells SELF that children are typically screened between 9 and 12 months and again at 24 months. (You can also ask to have an 18-month screening if you’re really worried.)
If you’re still concerned about the study findings, Dr. Grinspoon recommends doing what you can to limit or avoid your child’s exposure to the baby foods that were flagged, like apple and grape juices, and baby foods that contain sweet potatoes and carrots. However, he stresses, there isn’t a lot to go on with this report. “We really don’t know whether there’s enough lead in here that’s going to make a difference,” he says.
Kava agrees. “Unless you hear from an official source that lead levels are of concern, don’t get concerned about it—even for baby food,” she says. “That 20 percent had some lead meant that 80 percent did not, so one’s chances of getting any lead is relatively small.”
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Source Article from http://www.self.com/story/lead-baby-food