Lead is a neurotoxin. Even low blood lead levels can harm child development and behavior. The FDA sets limits for lead in food, but the current limits are based on levels that can be reliably measured and are considered achievable after manufacturing processes. The latest research suggests that there is no safe level of lead for children. Numerous samples tested by FDA are already either lead-free (according to the limits of detection in the analyses used) or have low lead content.
Baby food was the main focus of the study because lead consumption can be detrimental to development.
"We couldn't find any study to find where this lead was coming from", he said.
The EDF analyzed data by the FDA from 2003 to 2013 as part of the agency's Total Diet Study (TDS).
Baby juice vs. regular juice. The American Academy of Pediatrics has the lowest recommended limit at 1 ppb for school drinking water. Our analysis shows the percentage of baby food samples testing at higher levels. The 2,000 or so samples that were marketed for babies were split into 57 food types by the FDA.
Fruit juices: 89 percent of grape juice samples contained detectable levels of lead, while the same was true for 67 percent of mixed fruit juices, 55 percent of apple juices, and 45 percent of pear juices. "The crackers and cookies category was next with 47 percent followed by fruits, including juices, with 29 percent", according to the EDF.
Among the vegetables which put babies at risk of lead ingestion, there are sweet potatoes, with the alarming quantity of 86 percent. Around 20 percent of the baby samples contained lead, while only 14 percent of the non-baby food samples had the substance.
In third place were fruit juices, with 29 percent positive overall.
How numerous samples had detectable levels of lead?
"The FDA is continuing to work with industry to further limit the amount of lead in foods to the greatest extent feasible, especially in foods frequently consumed by children", the agency wrote. Contaminated water and soil are also sources.
The researchers, though, noted that not all lead in soil is naturally occurring.
Eating lead-contaminated food increases the level of lead in the blood. Specifically, we examined potential IQ loss and the percentage of samples with high lead concentrations.
This revised definition reflects findings from a 2012 National Toxicology Program Report that concluded a wide range of adverse health effects are associated with blood lead levels less than 5 μg/dL.
It is unclear how much lead was discovered in the samples, but no one is supposed to consume more than 6 micrograms per day, the maximum daily intake established by the Food and Drug Administration. As a comparison, the non-baby versions contain significantly less lead.
Contamination also could happen during processing from lead leaching from older brass, bronze, plastic or coated food handling equipment that contains lead; or from deteriorated lead paint in the building.
Help minimize a child's lead exposure by having them eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.
The FDA has indicated that it is re-evaluating its standards for lead in foods.