(CNN) – Toxic heavy metals that damage babies' brain development could be found in the foods you give your children, according to new research published Thursday.
Testing 168 baby foods from leading US manufacturers. UU. they found that 95% contained lead, 73% contained arsenic, 75% contained cadmium and 32% contained mercury. A quarter of the food contained the four heavy metals.
One in five baby foods tested had more than 10 times the limit of 1 ppb (parts per billion) of lead backed by public health advocates, although experts agree that no level of lead is safe.RELATED
The results coincided with a previous study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration that found one or more of the same metals in 33 of the 39 types of baby food tested.
The foods with the highest risk of neurotoxic damage were rice-based products, sweet potatoes and fruit juices, according to the analysis.
“Even in the small amounts found in food, these contaminants can alter brain development and erode a child's IQ. The impacts add up with every meal or snack a baby eats, ”the report said.
The tests were commissioned by Healthy Babies Bright Futures, which calls itself an alliance of scientists, nonprofit organizations and donors trying to reduce exposure to neurotoxic chemicals during the first months of life.
Children's rice cereal, rice dishes and rice-based snacks topped the list of most toxic foods for babies.
"These popular baby foods are not only rich in inorganic arsenic, the most toxic form of arsenic, but are almost always contaminated with the four toxic metals," the report said.
Previous research has shown that even low levels of arsenic exposure can affect a baby's neurological development. A 2004 study looked at children in Bangladesh who were exposed to arsenic in drinking water and found that they obtained significantly lower scores on intellectual tests. A meta-analysis of studies on the subject found that a 50% increase in urine arsenic levels would be associated with a 0.4 point decrease in the IQ of children between the ages of 5 and 15 years.
Arsenic is a natural element found in soil, water and air, the inorganic form being the most toxic. ("Inorganic" is a chemical term and has nothing to do with the cultivation method).
Because rice is grown in water, it is especially good for absorbing inorganic arsenic and, according to the Food and Drug Administration, has the highest concentration of any food.
And in this case, brown and wild rice are the worst, because the milling process used to create white rice eliminates the outer layers, where much of the arsenic is concentrated.
And you can't trust the organic either. A 2012 study found that brown rice syrup, a frequent sweetener in organic foods, was also a source of significant arsenic levels. An “organic” milk formula marketed for young children had inorganic arsenic levels that were six times the levels currently considered safe by the US Environmental Protection Agency. UU.
In the Healthy Babies analysis, four of seven rice cereals contained the most toxic form of arsenic at levels higher than the FDA's proposed action level of 100 ppb.
Measures are needed
Urgent measures are needed from major baby food companies and the FDA, according to the report. While the FDA has been investigating how to reduce exposure and some levels of arsenic in rice and juice are lower than a decade ago, the exposure is still too high.
“When the FDA acts, companies respond. We need the FDA to use its authority more effectively and much faster to reduce toxic heavy metals in baby food, ”said study author Jane Houlihan, research director of Healthy Babies Better Futures, in a statement.
What can parents do?
The analysis reviewed which baby foods have the highest risk and offered safer alternatives.
Puffed rice cereals and snacks
Rice cereal is the main source of arsenic in a baby's diet because it is often used as the first food; Rice snacks and other rice flour snacks also contain high levels. Healthy Babies suggested low arsenic cereals, such as oatmeal and multigrain cereals, and snacks packed without rice.
Pediatrician Tanya Altmann, author of "What to Feed Your Baby" echoes the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which advises parents to offer a wide variety of first foods, including grains such as oatmeal, barley, wheat and Quinoa
"The best first baby foods are avocado, mashed vegetables, oatmeal with peanut butter and salmon," Altmann said. "They all provide important nutrients that babies need, help develop their taste buds to prefer healthy foods and can decrease food allergies."
She believes that meats are a better source of iron and zinc for babies than rice cereal, "so I have not recommended rice cereal as the first food in several years."
If you choose to cook rice for your toddler, Healthy Babies recommends cooking rice in extra water and pouring it before eating. They say that will reduce arsenic levels by 60%, according to FDA studies.
“For the lowest levels, buy basmati rice grown in California, India and Pakistan. White rice has less arsenic than brown rice, ”the report said.
Teething cookies may contain arsenic, lead and cadmium, according to the report. Instead, relieve your baby's pain with frozen bananas, a peeled and cold cucumber or a clean, moist wipe, but make sure it doesn't get attractive.
Juice is often the favorite drink for parents, but it's not a good option, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. Juices are high in sugar, lack fiber and can contribute to tooth decay and later to obesity. Apple, pear, grape and other fruit juices may also contain lead and arsenic, so their frequent consumption is the main source of these heavy metals.
Instead, experts say that water and milk are the best options, depending on the age of the child. Babies under six months only need breast milk and formula. The preferred drinks for the second year of a child's life should be water and whole milk. Between 2 and 5 years, parents should go to low-fat or low-fat milk and continue promoting water to hydrate their children.
At all ages, the juice should be kept to a minimum. One tip: add water to make the juice last longer and always make sure the drink is 100% juice.
Fruits and vegetables
While sweet potatoes and carrots are excellent sources of vitamin A and other key nutrients, the report found that they are also rich in lead and cadmium. Continue to feed your child with these vegetables, but be sure to add many other colorful fruits and vegetables to add variety.