Monday, November 6, 2017

Lead in Cosmetics

We all know that lead is a problem and in many objects we interact with in our daily lives. Cosmetics provide a new set of products to watch out for. In December 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a draft guidance for the cosmetic industry, which was handed down after testing found lead to be present in various external cosmetic products. After 8 years of testing and research, lead was identified in lipsticks, lip glosses, lip liners, eye shadows, blushes, shampoos, and lotions. As a result, the FDA has decided to recommend the limit of lead on cosmetics be set at 10 parts per million (ppm). The products tested were well below that limit according to the FDA. These recommendations are not legally binding, and are just suggestions for the industry.
While none of these products were over the new limit recommended at 10 ppm, there are still health consequences of using these products. Lead can still be absorbed through the skin or accidentally ingested when using these products. This may not be a large problem for adults, who are less susceptible to the effects of lead, but these products can still harm children. Children are more susceptible to lead, so extra care should be taken with cosmetic products.
What can parents do since the FDA has only created guidances? There are a few steps that you can take to protect your household. Ensuring that cosmetics are out of reach of babies and toddlers who are likely to try to eat them is a good start. Lead free cosmetic items are also available, which helps to keep dress-up play or Halloween safe for kids. Also knowing what is in common household products can help keep you and your children healthy. Lead is never included on labels for any products, but are present in these products. Doing a little research of different brands before buying can go a long way in protecting your family. Brands such as L’Oreal, Maybelline, and Cover Girl have tested the highest for lead levels. Knowing what brands test high or don’t even allow lead in cosmetics can help you protect your household.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Does Your Baby's Food Contain Lead?

Many of you may start your day by going to the grocery store.  If you have an infant you’re shopping for you may head to the baby food section where you place fruit juice, Gerber Lil’ Entrees and applesauce pouches in the cart for your youngsters. You check the back label for the nutrition facts to ensure none of what you’re buying is too high in sugar or sodium. However, there is one ingredient not found on the label. Here’s a hint: its symbol on the periodic table is Pb and it used to be found in wooden pencils you used as a kid.  You guessed it, lead.

As you probably know, babies and young children are especially at risk for experiencing the effects from exposure. There is no safe level of lead exposure and kids, partly due to their teething behaviors and their having a much higher absorption rate for lead than adults. A recent study by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) found out of 57 types of food designated by the FDA as baby food in the study, lead was in one or more of the 52 samples. Some of the most contaminated foods included the following: Fruit juice, root vegetables, and teething biscuits. 

It should be noted that lead exposure cannot be 100% eliminated because of lead is naturally occurring and would be impossible to pinpoint its exact source for every bit of produced food, and none of the aforementioned samples contained levels above FDA recommendations. However, here is a list of some of the important places to keep a look out for:

Soil: You see lots of it on a daily basis. From your backyard to your home garden, soil is everywhere. If you choose to grow your own foods, it is important to keep in mind that highly industrial areas are at a higher risk due to auto emissions. Vegetables do not readily absorb lead, which means the risk of lead poisoning from this source is low and children are more likely to become poisoned by consuming the soil directly. However, root vegetables—carrots and lettuce—as noted above are known to contain higher lead concentrations if the soil exceeds 300 ppm. Concerned your soil might be contaminated? Check here.

Food Containers: According to Consumer Reports, pesticides and chemicals are concentrated in processed baby foods. Contact the companies behind your favorite brands to learn about their processing and how much lead they allow in their products (click here and here). Additionally, you should be careful of the types of containers you store your food in. Older china dishes and some imported food containers may contain traces of lead, though the risk of exposure is very low. Learn about FDA regulations for imported foods here as well as here.

Water: As you are aware, lead from pipes can leak into your water source. If you are giving your child formula, keep in mind contaminated tap water can put your child at risk because of the high amounts of water they are consuming. Private wells older than 20 years old can also be a source of lead.  Lead service lines to your home and your own faucets and fixture are the primary sources of lead that may be in your water.  The EPA provides tips to ensure the water that makes it into your home is safe for you and your little one(s) to consume. If you are breastfeeding, follow these recommendations for water consumption to reduce the risk of lead transfer to your child(ren).

Keeping your child(ren) safe is the number one priority for parents and caregivers. If you are concerned about lead levels in your home or the food you are buying, don’t hesitate to reach out to companies and/or your local health department for more information.                                                                                            

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Many Children Left Untested For Lead

Since the Flint water crisis made its way into national headlines, lead screening and testing has become of high concern, especially testing among young children who, as you know, are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead exposure. You’ve heard about the symptoms—hyperactivity, decreased IQ, insomnia, fatigue—the list goes on.

Yet, despite this increased concern, a study conducted by the Public Health Institute of California Assessing Child Lead Poisoning Case Ascertainment in the United States between 1999 and 2010 found that in some places nearly 80% of poisoned children were unidentified. Nationally, 607,000/944,000 (64%) cases were reported to the CDC. This means the other 36% of children went undetected, with many of the reported coming from areas in the Midwest and Northeast. Not good with percentages? Here is a graphic to help. Also, according to another study conducted by Reuters, cities in some states like Wisconsin and Missouri had a poisoning rate higher than that of Flint’s.

What Accounts For The Number of Children Going Untested?
To help wrap our heads around this issue, here is a list, though not an extensive one, to help answer this questions (for more information, you can take a look here and here).

  • Low-income children covered by Medicaid are required to be tested, but research has shown compliance with such a requirement is low. As of April of this year according to the Michigan Medicaid Blood Lead Testing Report, statewide, 66% of children are tested at or on their 2nd birthday and 74% for 3 year olds. Take a look at the full report.

  • Outside of Medicaid, there are few—if any—state recommendations for blood lead testing made available to parents (Arkansas, Montana, North and South Dakota, and Wyoming). This creates confusion and leaves parents—like some of you—with many unanswered questions. How are you to know when, how, or where to get your child(ren) tested if such information is not accessible to you? 

  • States also use confusing terminology within their guidelines that makes it difficult for even medical professionals to know when testing a child is required. Put it simply, the wording is confusing. Some words gives the impression that testing should take place, while others use words like shall make it clear testing is mandatory.

  • Only 10 states plus the District of Columbia requires universal screening. With most of these states require testing for children between the ages of 1 and 2. Michigan is not one of them.

  • Some of those states with universal screening have differing requirements. Age at which testing takes place, areas where testing is required, and the number of times a child is tested are some of these differing requirements.

Should your child or grandchild be tested for lead?

A good place to start is by educating yourself and talking with your pediatrician.