Monday, August 20, 2018

What To Do When Baby Food Is Found To Contain "Worrisome Levels" of Harmful Heavy Metals

This has been a rough week for parents trying to reduce their family's chemical exposure.  First,  I posted how Monsanto, the company that makes the popular weed killer Roundup, has been ordered to pay $289 million USD to a terminally ill school groundsman who used Roundup weedkiller and claims the pesticide contributed to his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (read the full article here

Then, the Environmental Working Group published a report where they found glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, in the majority of samples of common breakfast products made with conventionally and organically grown oats.   This included popular oatmeal, granola and granola bars and childhood favorite cereals like Lucky Charms and Cheerios.

Now, Consumer Reports published a study that found many types of food commonly eaten by babies and toddlers - such as packaged entrees, fruits and vegetables -- contained “measurable levels” of certain heavy metals.  Let's take a look at their findings, what it means for your family and- very importantly - what you can do at home to keep your kids safe.


More than 90 percent of parents with children 3 and under purchase and feed their kids prepackaged baby foods-  at least occasionally. 


The human body needs small amounts of certain heavy metals, such as iron and zinc, to function properly. But not all heavy metals are good.  Cadmium, inorganic arsenic, lead, and mercury can be toxic for everyone and pose particular risks for young children and pregnant women due to their effects on our neurological system.

In fact, exposure, even in small amounts,   at an early age may result in lower IQ and increase the risk of behavior problems,  autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Cumulative risk should also be considered, especially because our children's bodies do not detoxify heavy metals naturally with ease.....  heavy metals can accumulate in the kidneys and other internal organs and stay there for years.   

Another worry is the cumulative risk of high levels of different heavy metals combined.  Consumer Reports found sometimes low levels of different metals, but if you add them up and combine them these levels were found to be in some cases more concerning than the level of any one specific heavy metal. “Each of these metals has shown similar adverse effects on children’s developing brains and nervous systems, and there are potential additive effects,” Consumer Report explains.

Consumer Report analyzed 50 nationally distributed organic and non organic packaged foods made for babies and toddlers, and checked for cadmium, lead, mercury, and inorganic arsenic; the type of heavy metals that are most harmful to health- especially young children and pregnant women.

  • Every single product had measurable levels of at least one of these heavy metals: cadmium, inorganic arsenic, or lead. However- it is important to note- some were found to have levels lower than what CR scientist consider of concern
  • About two-thirds (68 percent) did have worrisome levels of at least one heavy metal.
  • The worse: Fifteen of the foods tested would pose potential health risks to a child regularly eating just one serving or less per day.
  • The snacks and products containing rice and/or sweet potatoes were particularly likely to have high levels of heavy metals.
Unfortunately, o
rganic foods were as likely to contain heavy metals as conventional foods (this is most likely due to the source of heavy metals being the Earth's crust or - in most of the cases- coming from the soil or water that has been contaminated through either farming and manufacturing practices (such as pesticide application or mining nearby) or pollution (such as the use of leaded gasoline in other countries).


First, don’t  panic: Yes, the sad reality is that our kids are going to be exposed to many different chemicals every single day- it is just impossible to live in a toxin free bubble.  However there are things you can do to help decrease their exposure.   Remember, here at Non-toxic Munchkin I always say that the key to successful "non-toxic living'- is first NOT to get overwhelmed and to do what you can to eliminate harmful chemicals where you can because small changes add up.  Non-toxic living is all about finding a balance between avoiding chemicals and living a modern functional life.

Here are things all parents can and should do at home:
  1. Stay informed and, certainly, avoid the foods with highest levels of toxins.  Making changes to your child’s diet now can reduce the chance of negative outcomes in the future (see the list below) 
  2. Understand that whether any child will develop problems really depends on a host of factors, including genetics and exposure to other sources of heavy metals, such as from lead paint or contaminated water.
  3. Pay attention to factors we CAN control:  your water supply, lead exposure from old paint dust, pesticides in non organic food, decreasing exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals at home and protecting and strengthening your child’s immune system…
  4. Read our post on Helping Your Kids to Naturally Detox
  5. regarding heavy metals in food, SPECIFICALLY parents can:

Limit the amount of infant rice products (rice cereal, rice baby food, pasta, rice cakes etc) your child eats: brown rice had more inorganic arsenic than white rice of the same type. White basmati rice from California, India, and Pakistan, and sushi rice from the U.S., are good choices that had, on average, half as much inorganic arsenic as most other types.
If eating rice, cook rice with 6 to 10 parts water (will result in a softer rice) which helps reduce arsenic in rice

Choose whole foods vs processed foods.  Whole foods found to be lower in heavy metals:  apples, applesauce (unsweetened), avocadosbananas, barley with diced vegetables, beanscheese, grapes, hard-boiled eggs, peaches, strawberries, and yogurt
Pick the right fish. Bigeye tuna, king mackerel, orange roughy, shark, and swordfish are particularly high in methylmercury.  Fish with the lowest levels of mercury include:  wildcaught Salmon, Haddock, Flounder, Herring, Squid, Shrimp and Rainbow Trout

According to Consumer Reports the baby food products with concerning levels of heavy metals they tested were:

To read the full report head over to Consumer Reports 

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