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Baby Food and Metallic Toxins: How to Feed Solids Safely

By Dr. Arthur Lavin

Many of us are already abundantly aware that the rice plant likes to concentrate arsenic from the soil, leading many baby rice cereal flakes to contain too much arsenic to feed babies with.  This issue was alerted in Real Answers with Dr. Lavin over three years ago:  https://www.advancedped.com/get-ready-to-say-goodbye-to-rice-cereal/

Now a serious group that monitors the safety of baby foods has issued an important report:  https://www.healthybabyfood.org/

Healthy Babies Bright Futures is a prominent non-profit that finds chemicals in our environment that can hurt the development of our babies’ minds.

This report presents findings on examination of 168 different baby foods, looking for levels of toxic, heavy, metals, and offers approaches that can drastically reduce the exposure of our babies to these toxic heavy metals.

What are the Toxic Heavy Metals Tested for in Baby Foods in this Report?

The most famous is lead.  A metal is considered heavy if its atom is very large, which can be found by looking at a periodic table.  Light elements are on the top rows, like hydrogen, helium, even oxygen, carbon, and neon.  Heavy elements are on the bottom rows.

The metals of greatest toxic risk studied in this report included lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury and they summarized the harm done by each as follows:

  •  Even low levels, below Federal water standards, can cause harm to the developing mind of a fetus and infant, with decreased intelligence found even through adulthood, even if the exposure stops early in life.
  • Lifelong losses in intelligence are established for even low levels of exposure early in life.
  • Low level exposures early in life can triple the risk of learning disorders in school.  These are levels of exposure that are common in many foods.
  • Mercury is known to harm brain development.  High levels of exposure can lead to IQs in the 80’s range which a serious loss of intelligence.

How Likely is a Baby Food to contain Toxic Levels of these Metals?

Of the 168 baby foods tested:

  • 95% contained one of these 4 toxic metals.
  • 20% of these foods contained all four toxic metals.
  • 15 baby foods accounted for 55% of the threat to babies’ brain development

What Can be Done to Protect your Baby?

The good news is that by avoiding certain baby foods, the exposure to these heavy metals that can damage brain development can be dramatically reduced.

  • The most important step is to eliminate rice containing foods.  This includes rice cereal, rice snacks, and rice dishes.  It is estimated that doing so can spare 20% of all the IQ points lost due to toxins in foods in the first 2 years of life.
  • Drop fruit juice and use tap water instead, and you drop the exposure to toxic metals from juices by 68%.
  • Move away from carrots and sweet potatoes and instead use other fruits and vegetables and you drop exposure to toxic metals from produce by 73%
  • Whole milk was found to deliver the second highest amount of toxic metals, mainly because of how much we give our kids to drink.  Levels per ounce were not very high, but 1-2 year olds drink a lot of it.  So reduce intake to about 1-2 cups a day, and you can reduce toxic metal exposures substantially.
  • Lower level exposures round out the top 15 baby foods with toxic heavy metals:  Cheerios and other oat ring cereals, fruit yogurts, macaroni and cheese, soft cereal bars and oatmeal cookies, and bottle drinking water [tap is better].

In addition to avoiding these foods, all of us can put pressure on the FDA and baby food manufacturers to source foods that are lower in toxic heavy metal content.  This pressure works.  Baby rice cereals have seen their arsenic content dropping substantially over the last 5-10 years.

BOTTOM LINES

  1. There are a number of heavy metals that are known to cause lifelong impairment in brain function, leaving those exposed at increased risk for lower intelligence, specific learning disorders, even behavioral disorders.
  2. Healthy Babies Bright Futures studied 168 baby foods across the country and found four of these toxic metals in 95% of the baby foods.
  3.  Three steps can sharply reduce your baby’s exposure to these brain toxins:
  4. Don’t use rice.
  5. Don’t use fruit juices.
  6.  Don’t use carrots and sweet potatoes
  7. Other gains can be made by reducing use of whole milk, cheerios, fruit yogurts, macaroni and cheese, soft cereal bars and oatmeal cookies.
  8. The FDA and baby food manufacturers respond to public pressure to reduce exposures in our food to lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury, all of us should apply this pressure.

We know that there are elements that can cause permanent harm to our baby’s brains, there is every reason to protect our baby’s, during mother’s pregnancy, and during their infancy, from this harm.

To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin

 

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