An analysis of 11 years' worth of data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows the hidden dangers of lead content in infant and toddler food products. More than 1 million infants and toddlers in the United States consume more lead than the maximum daily intake limit of 6 micrograms.
Detectable Lead In Baby Food
Environmental watchdog group Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) studied data from the FDA's Total Diet Study (TDS) between the years of 2003 and 2013. What they found was that 20 percent of more than 2,000 baby food samples and 14 percent of more than 10,000 non-baby food samples contained detectable levels of lead.
Further, 40 percent of the samples of eight types of infant and toddler food products were seen to have detectable lead content. Among them, lead was more commonly found in fruit juices, root vegetables, and cookies.
Specifically, lead content was more frequently found in 89 percent of 44 grape juice samples, 67 percent of 111 mixed fruit juice samples, 55 percent of 44 samples of apple juice, and 45 percent of 44 samples of pear juice samples. What's more, the baby food versions of grape and apple juice were found to have detectable lead more often compared to their regular counterparts.
Eighty-six percent of 44 sweet potato samples, as well as 64 percent of 44 arrowroot cookie samples, and 47 percent among the 43 samples of teething cookies were also seen to have detectable lead levels.
Safe Lead Levels
In 1993, the FDA set the maximum daily intake level of lead at 6 micrograms per day, but this year, a study held by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed that more than 1 million children between the ages of 2 and 6 consume more than 6 micrograms of lead in a day.
On the other hand, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has lowered their previous reference blood lead "level of concern" from 10 micrograms to 5 micrograms per deciliter.
It is worth noting that there is still no safe lead level identified, but it is especially more concerning when children ingest lead as their brains are still developing. In fact, experts have previously connected even low blood lead levels to behavioral problems and a lower IQ.
More recently, a test of the baby teeth of twins where one twin has autism showed that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) had higher levels of lead both before and after birth as compared to their co-twin who did not have ASD.
Though the source of lead in baby food remains unclear, EDF believes that it is important for the FDA to improve and update their safety guidance standards when it comes to lead, and for food manufacturers themselves to frequently check their products for lead levels, and to ensure that their products do not reach the maximum lead level even without strict FDA regulations.
Parents are also advised to consult their pediatricians about lead exposure minimization, and to check whether their children's' favorite food products do not contain a harmful amount of lead.