Over 90 percent of randomly selected baby food products across the United States contained metals known to lower babies’ IQ levels, according to a study released on Oct. 15.
Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF) found lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury among the 168 tested products. Forty percent of the products contained at least 3 of these metals, and rice-based foods and fruit juice tested high for heavy metal exposure.”
“The important thing to know is that the amounts that we found are fairly small,” said Jane Houlihan, the research director for HBBF, in an interview with NTD News. “It’s not any one brand or any one meal or day that’s the problem; it’s really the cumulative effects over a child’s early years.”
Houlihan said that although the amount is small, babies are vulnerable to these elements.
“Heavy metals have always been in our food supply, but the science and the research began coming out about 10 years ago to show that this is a particular problem for babies,” she said.
We spoke with Dr. Nicole Avena, a research neuroscientist, nutritionist, and professor from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, to find out how serious it is to expose babies to these metals.
Avena explained that these metals are neurotoxins: metals that can have detrimental effects on IQ levels and cognitive functioning. While the counterargument against these studies is that metals are found naturally in the environment, she said the problem lies in the cumulative exposure.
“This doesn’t mean that people have to stop eating rice because these trace exposures are not known to have a significant impact by themselves.
“However, if you look at the cumulative effect of exposure to these various different metals and through other means, such as in the environment, through access to different toys that might contain these types of metals … if you put them together over time, [they] can have an impact,” said the doctor.
Both Dr. Avena and Houlihan recommend giving babies a variety of food to avoid overexposure.
HBBF is urging the Food & Drug Administration to set tighter regulations on the amount of metal content in baby food.
The federal agency stated in May that it understands the risks these metals pose to infants and is working on ways to reduce exposure.