On June 9, the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) filed Notices of Violation of California Proposition 65 Toxics Right to Know law, alleging lead was found in a variety of children’s and baby foods. The specific food categories included apple juice, grape juice, packaged pears and peaches (including baby food) and fruit cocktail. Perhaps, most disappointingly, many organic products had detectable levels of lead in them. A complete list of the companies and products named appears with the notice and is located on the ELF website.
The notices claim that the children’s foods contain enough lead in a single serving that they require a warning under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (a.k.a “Proposition 65″ or “Prop 65″). Toxicologist Barbara G. Callahan, PhD, DABT, of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who has spent two decades performing public health and environmental risk assessments, called the lead concentrations in the ELF test results “alarming.”
Scientists agree that there is no safe level of exposure to lead. Lead accumulates in the body from multiple exposures over time and from multiple sources. According to Dr. Callahan, “Lead exposure among children is a particular concern because their developing bodies absorb lead at a higher rate and because children are particularly sensitive to lead’s toxic effects, including decreased I.Q.” Lead exposure also represents a heightened risk among pregnant and nursing women because lead passes from the mother to the developing fetus or infant. “Lead already stored in the mother’s bone tissue is mobilized along with calcium,” explains Dr. Callahan, “and additional lead exposure to the mother can further compromise the health of the most vulnerable among us.”
Lead has been and continues to be released into the environment from decades of lead-based pesticide application, use of leaded gasoline and lead paint, and burning of coal in power plants. The lead in the environment then can make its way into the food supply. But not every category or even foods within categories contains lead. According to David Schardt, Science Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest, in an interview for NPR’s “All Things Considered”:
“If you look at the apple juice there are some manufacturers who managed to avoid the lead entirely. And it would be interesting to find out how they’re managing to do that. Are they choosing different fruits, fruits from different farmers who have avoided lead contamination of their products? Or do their manufacturing processes, are they of such a kind that they avoid adding lead to the food that they’re processing?”
There are things that consumers can do if they are concerned about their families’ exposure to lead.
- Make informed choices.
- Demand information before you buy.
- Advocate for cleaner food and more comprehensive environmental health policies.
What do you think? Do you buy any of the products they found? What would you feel is safer: organic juice with lead contamination or conventional juice with pesticide contamination? We shouldn’t have to make that choice.
Source: “Lead Found in Children’s Foods and Baby Foods; Legal Notices Sent to Law Enforcement,” Environmental Law Foundation Press Release, June 10, 2010.
Are you concerned about lead in your kids’ juices and foods? Post your comments on the Parenting Exchange.