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.