Need another reason to make your own baby food? The Environmental Defense Fund, in an analysis of 11 years of federal data, has found detectable levels of lead in 20 percent of 2,164 most commonly used fruit juices such as grape and apple, root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and carrots, and cookies like teething biscuits.
Lead in children’s products can cause affect their cognitive development, the cardiovascular system and immune system.
“Lead can have a number of effects on children and it’s especially harmful during critical windows of development,” said Dr. Aparna Bole, pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, told CNN. “The largest burden that we often think about is neurocognitive that can occur even at low levels of lead exposure.”
While the brands of the samples studied were not identified, and the levels of lead are thought to be relatively low, a safe blood lead level in children has yet to be identified.
It is estimated that over 5 percent of children consume more than 6 micrograms per day of lead in their diet. Ingestion of about one mg a day on a continued basis can severely affect children McGill University chemistry professor Joe Schwartz said while speaking about lead exposure
During his 20 years researching and working to reduce lead exposures Tom Neltner, Environmental Defense Fund’s chemicals policy director said food is the major source of lead exposure in two-thirds of toddlers.
What was even more concerning was that baby food versions of apple juice, grape juice and carrots had detectable lead more often than the regular versions.
How does that happen?
“I can’t explain it other than I assume baby food is processed more,” Neltner said.
The Environmental Defense Fund isn’t recommending that parents avoid certain foods or brands for their children but being more aware is important.
“In many American communities, the most significant route of lead exposure is from paint and soil,” Bole said. “Avoiding all sources of exposure of lead poisoning is incredibly important … but the last thing I would want is for a parent to restrict their child’s diet or limit their intake of healthy food groups.”
In the past there has been a call by pediatricians to limit or eliminate fruit juices from children’s diets for nutritional reasons. “There are good reasons to limit juice other than this particular report,” Bole said.
But she said she wouldn’t want parents to avoid root vegetables altogether.
“The benefits of those nutritious foods far outweigh any risk,” she said, especially in the context of where kids are most exposed to lead.
Preparing your own baby food also reduces the risk of unknown contaminants.